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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

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For want of a motive for the book thief, let’s run through some possibilities

Sunday 9th January 2022 @ 12:00 am


The theft of books occupies a complex place in our moral judgment, depending on motive. In Markus Zusak’s 2005 novel The Book Thief, the actions of the title character are heroic – she steals books to save them from destruction. During the 2011 London riots, it was frequently observed, with a hint of reproach, that the looters pointedly left bookshops untouched and this deliberate spurning was seen as further indictment of the mob’s character, as if we’d have thought better of the rioters if they had heaved a bollard through the window of Waterstones and made off with the latest Jeanette Winterson.



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