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When random violence strikes, finding a motive is often elusive

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Years ago in France, reading was the exclusive preserve of the elite. When this privilege trickled down to the middle class, it owed not only to universal education, but also to the popularization of travel by rail instead of horse-drawn carriages, according to Shigeru Kashima, a scholar of French literature.

Traveling by train meant being confined for hours in a rail car with strangers. One could be lucky enough to strike up a pleasant conversation with a fellow traveler, but the situation could also turn ugly or awkward.

The only way to share the space comfortably was to open a book and read,........

© The Asahi Shimbun