Minister mounts novel defense

Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis intervened yesterday to ask for the review of a recent decision by a judge, which ordered school libraries to remove a critically acclaimed book from their shelves because it contained «disgusting and pornographic» passages. Hatzigakis called the judge’s ruling to temporarily have Ersi Sotiropoulou’s «Zigzag Through the Bitter Orange Trees» removed from schools into question and has asked the Supreme Court to look into the decision as court of first instance justice Dimitris Gavalas is already the subject of a separate disciplinary process. Gavalas faces being fired if the accusations that he has delayed issuing judgments in a series of cases are proved to be true. Sotiropoulou’s novel, which won Greece’s State Award for Fiction in 2000, has been published in several languages, including English. It tells the story of a young girl dying from a rare disease who enlists the help of her brother to get revenge on a nurse at the hospital where she is being treated. Gavalas’s ruling against the book came after lawyer Constantinos Plevris submitted a complaint about the novel, arguing that it was unsuitable for schools. The judge said in his ruling that the book is riddled with «obscene phrases» and that children’s literature should be aimed at «children’s pure souls.» Plevris, the father of Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) MP Thanos Plevris, was last year found guilty of inciting racial hatred with his book «Jews: The Whole Truth.» Kedros, the publishers of Sotiropoulou’s book, have described the campaign against the novel as a «witch hunt.» The author has also spoken out against the move to have her book banned from school libraries. «I refuse to be called to account for my book,» she said recently. «The boundaries between literature and pornography are clear and easy to understand… but moralizing needs pornography, it is thirsty for so-called sin, because that is the only way that it can define itself.» Hatzigakis has asked the Supreme Court’s vice president, Dimitris Kyritsakis, to handle the evaluation of the judge’s decision to request the book to be removed from schools.