Tim Appelo and David Bock
October 15, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Forty years ago this week, Ray Bradbury published Fahrenheit 451, the anticensorship fable he wrote in nine days flat. It depicts a future world in which books are torched because they give citizens dangerous ideas. (Four-hundred fifty-one is supposedly the temperature at which paper ignites.) ”My book is used as a club to beat back any possible repressions,” says Bradbury, 73. ”It’s a handy weapon you can pick up and hit dumbos over the head with.” With more than 4 million copies in print, Fahrenheit has had the last laugh on dumbos Hitler and Stalin, whose literary arson inspired the book. ”I’m glad it’s still around, and I’m glad I’m still around to enjoy it,” says Bradbury.

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