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From Orwell to ‘Little Mermaid,’ Kuwait steps up book banning

(From the New York Times. Link to the complete article given below)

No book, it seems, is too substantive or too insignificant to be banned in Kuwait. Recent targets of the government’s literary censors include an encyclopedia with a picture of Michelangelo’s David and a Disney version of “The Little Mermaid.”

David had no fig leaf, and the mermaid, alas, wore half a bikini.

“There are no hijab-wearing mermaids,” said Shamayel al-Sharikh, a Kuwaiti women’s activist. “The powers that be thought her dress was promiscuous. It’s humiliating.”

Kuwaitis like to think of their country as an enclave of intellectual freedom in the conservative Persian Gulf, a haven that once welcomed exiled Arab writers. But that self-image is becoming harder to sustain.

Responding to the demands of a growing conservative bloc in Parliament, the government is increasingly banning books.

In August, the government acknowledged that it had banned 4,390 books since 2014, hundreds of them this year, including many works of literature that had once been considered untouchable, setting off street demonstrations and online protests.

Read more at the New York Times link here

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Translator of Perumal Murugan’s ‘One Part Woman’ declines Sahitya Akademi Award

Aniruddhan Vasudevan, the critically acclaimed translator of ‘One Part Woman’, has declined the Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize 2016.

‘One Part Woman’ is a translation of ‘Madhorubagan’, a Tamil novel by award-winning author Perumal Murugan.

‘Madhorubagan’ – the tale of a couple from Tiruchengode, who face societal discrimination due to their inability to conceive a child – sparked uproar in 2014, with Hindu caste and religious groups holding protests.

The furore died down, but reared its ugly head again in 2017 when the Sahitya Akademi awards were announced and Aniruddhan’s name featured on the list. The agitators filed a petition in the Madras High Court against the book receiving the award.

In December 2017, the Madras High Court asked the Akademi to go ahead with their award ceremony as scheduled while ordering a stay on the English translation prize until further notice.

On Monday, the translator wrote to the Akademi and declined the award.

Kannan Sundaram, of Kalachuvadu Publications, which published ‘Madhorubagan’, told TNM, “He does not want to fight a legal battle to get the award. He also does not want eminent writers like Githa Hariharan, K Satchidanandan and others being scrutinized. He sees this (the fact that the case is still going on) as part of the ongoing problem of hounding Perumal Murugan, and does not want to be part of it.”

The controversy

In 2014, four years after Perumal Murugan’s much-acclaimed ‘Madhorubagan’ released, the Kongu Vellala Gounder community began protesting against the book. The caste, which has a stronghold over the Kongu region in Tamil Nadu, claimed that the book insulted the women of their community, in addition to disrespecting Hindu deities. A police-mediated ‘peace talk’ between Perumal Murugan and the caste-Hindu right-wing groups resulted in the writer tendering an unconditional apology.

Soon after this, Perumal Murugan announced his decision to stop writing in a post on Facebook, which said the author in him was dead. Following multiple criminal complaints, in 2016, the Madras High Court finally quashed all proceedings against the book and the writer.

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Censorship in the Arab world: Debating its impact at a conference in Tunisia

Censorship concerns many in the worldwide book industry today. The Arab Publishers Association conference in Tunis this month addressed the issue specifically in the Arab world.

Shortly before the announcement of the International Publishers’ Association’s shortlist for the 2018 Prix Voltaire, the fourth Arab Publishers Association (APA) conference was held in Tunis and addressed a number of issues and opportunities in the region.

The Arab Publishers Association was established in 1995 in a meeting in Beirut and today comprises some 808 publishers in its overall membership, with APA offices in both Beirut and Cairo. In its mission statement, the association describes its intent as being “to defend and develop the Arab publishing industry and protect intellectual property rights, and defense of Arab culture in all its components.”

The conference in Tunis earlier this month (January 9 and 10) staged 46 speakers in a program built around eight topics:

  • Components of the publishing industry
  • Arab Libraries, supply and indexing policies (and the ISBN)
  • Publishing, the marketing of print, digital and audiobooks
  • A crisis in Arab book content
  • Intellectual property and the problem of piracy
  • Realities of publishing in the Arab Maghreb countries of northern Africa
  • Challenges facing the publishing industry in the Arab world
  • And questions of books in the wider media context

In a session of particular pertinence to many of the world’s publishing markets today, Shukri Al Mabkhout—the 2015 winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for Al Talyeni (The Italian)—led a panel discussion titled “Censorship in the Arab World: Restrictions Imposed on Cultural Expression and its Impact on Creativity.”

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Pramoedya Ananta Toer: Why You Should Know Him

Pramoedya Ananta Toer is widely regarded as one of Indonesia ‘s best writers.

At a young age, he joined the anti-colonial struggle against Japan during World War II and later enlisted in an army to fight Dutch colonialists .

He was captured and jailed by the Dutch in 1947. His foray into writing began in prison, at age 24. The Fugitive, his first novel, came out during his two years of incarceration.

Pramoedya or “Pram” – a hero of Indonesia’s anti-colonial movement and a champion of human rightsand freedom of speech – was born on February 6, 1925, in the poor Javanese town of Blora.

He died in the capital, Jakarta, on April 30, 2006 at age 81.

Pramoedya “dedicated his whole life to this country through his work”, his daughter Tatiana Ananta told The Associated Press at his funeral.

Google Doodle  marked the 92nd birth anniversary of the Indonesian writer and activist who spent most of his adult life in jail, imprisoned first by colonial powers and later by Indonesian governments.

“Each injustice has to be fought against, even if it’s only in one’s heart – and I did fight,” Pramoedya was quoted as saying in the book Exile: In Conversation with Andre Vltchek and Rossie Indira.

Pramoedya’s father was a schoolteacher and nationalist who inspired him to join Indonesia’s struggle against colonialism. His mother came from a pious Muslim family.

Despite only having a primary school education, he went on to write more than 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

The novelist is best known for the Buru quartet, which traces the birth of nationalism in Indonesia. A Javanese boy named Minke, who rejected the country’s hierarchical society, is the protagonist in the series.

“In fact the books were smuggled out of Indonesia by Pram’s friend, a German priest, to avoid being taken  or destroyed, and have now been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide,” Google Doodle wrote.

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I want to stroll Tehran’s streets at night, like men can: writer Fereshteh Ahmadi

Under Hassan Rouhani’s less repressive regime, female authors are starting to see their books in print, and daring to dream of greater independence.

Even the gentle references to sexuality in Fereshteh Ahmadi’s short story Harry Is Always Lost meant it was hit by the censors…

But that was under hardliner president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now the story is in print thanks to a little more leeway in censorship under newly re-elected president Hassan Rouhani.

Ahmadi’s work as a writer is particularly striking because she comes from a country where conservative attitudes towards women are prevalent… Ahmadi’s success is testament to female writers thriving in Iran’s literary scene.

Ahmadi, who has been a judge in a number of Iranian literary prizes, was born in the southern city of Kerman in 1972. She studied architecture at Tehran University and worked as an architect for some years before dedicating herself to writing. Her first collection of short stories, Everybody’s Sara, was published in 2004 and she has written two novels: The Forgetful Angel and The Cheese Jungle.

“The eight years under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a real catastrophe,” she says. “A lot of books did not get permission for being printed, a lot of books had permission but they were blocked from being reprinted. In the past four years under Rouhani a lot of books managed to get permission, get printed, for many writers they finally succeeded to publish their work.”

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Nobel Laureates speak out for jailed Turkish writers

Nobel laureates and other writers have issued a message of solidarity to Turkish colleagues who have been jailed as part of what they call a “heavy-handed” crackdown against free expression.

Close to 150 writers and journalists are in prison in Turkey, several jailed as the government embarked on a massive clampdown on a network linked to a US-based Muslim cleric blamed for Turkey’s failed coup in July. The crackdown later extended to other government opponents.

Nobel laureates, including Elfriede Jelinek and JM Coetzee, and other high-profile authors vowed today not to remain silent “while your human rights are violated.” Read more


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An Open Letter to the PM of Pakistan

From: Rahman Abbas

Mumbai, India

20/1/2017

 

To,

Mr. Prime Minister of Pakistan

Mian Nawaz Sharif

SUBJECT:  Appeal to ensure the safety and release of missing poet and bloggers.

Dear Sir,

I’m an Indian Urdu novelist and a person who has spoken against fanatic elements of my own country who indulge in activities against the principles of democracy and secularism. I have also protested against groups of fundamentalists accused of killing writers and critics of rotten religious practices in our country. Additionally, I am one among the Indian writers who returned their respective awards as a symbolic protest against fundamentalism and intolerance.

With this brief introduction about my concern for principles of secularism and the creative fraternity, I am drawing your attention towards the missing poet and bloggers in your country. Since Pakistan is a wonderful country that cherishes democracy, a country where human dignity and freedom of thought is revered and valued, it is saddening that poets and writers have been made to disappear. Sir, I needn’t say that it is a serious threat to what you stand for i.e. freedom of thought and freedom of dissent. I have witnessed that you take a stand for rights of minorities in your country and value contribution of writers and poets.

Sir, it is true that one can disagree with someone’s views on social changes and reforms, but in that case, we have laws and legal processes to punish people who hurt the emotions of others or use offensive language. But there is no situation in which silencing of thinkers and disappearance of a person would be acceptable as it is against the basic principles of Islam and democracy. Sir, you must be aware of the “mysteriously” missing poet and academicians Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer and Samar Abbas, and must have also felt the pain of the families of these young minds.

Sir, on Thursday 19th January, the Interior Minister of Pakistan Chaudhury Nisar Ali Khan had also taken note of the matter and stated that there was an ongoing negative propaganda on social media against the bloggers. The Interior Minister has also stated on 10th January that he was in contact with intelligence agencies and was hopeful of finding Salman Haider. However, the disappointment is increasing with every passing day. Hence your intervention is needed in the safe and sound recovery of all human rights and social activists.

Sir, I’m appealing to you to look into this critical matter with personal interest and ensure the safety of people who want Pakistan to be a true democratic and secular nation.

 

14910525_1318428548170182_6247381451463410303_nYours sincerely,

Rahman Abbas

rahmanabbas@gmail.com


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Perumal Murugan: The Before and the After

By K. Srilata

On an evening uneasily sandwiched between the demise of the former chief minister Jayalalithaa and the arrival of cyclone Vardah, a small group of people had assembled at Chennai’s iconic Spaces. The occasion was Prakriti Foundation’s launch of Perumal Murugan’s book of poems, Mayanathil Nitkum Maram (A Tree that Stands in the Crematorium) – a book that contains four previous collections of poetry: Nigazh Uravu, Gomuki Nadhikarai Koozhaangal, Neer Midakkum Kanngal and Velli Shani Bhudhan Nyayaru Vzhyayan Chevvai. I was in conversation with Murugan, a role that I, with Murugan’s consent, have recast slightly. I made some introductory remarks following which there was a bi-lingual reading. Murugan read his Tamil poems and I read Peter and Thirugyanam’s English renderings of the same. There was a solemnity to the occasion, for it marked the resurrection of Murugan, the writer. The event itself lasted for less than an hour and there were a few questions and then it is all over before we know it. As we wrap up, I notice a big pile of unsold copies – the story of most poetry book launches.

In January 2015, Murugan had famously announced on Facebook that his writing self was dead. He was being hounded by Hindu right-wing forces and threatened with death. Murugan had made the fatal mistake of portraying certain sexual customs of the people of Tamil Nadu’s Kongu Nadu region in his novel Madhorubhagan. It was a grim, grim story – the sort of thing no writer anywhere in the world would wish for, the sort of thing no writer anywhere in the world should have to face. In the case of Murugan, the threats to his life and to the lives of his family members had the worst possible effect – it very nearly stopped him from writing. Read more

Source: The Wire


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India: The Jet Airways lawsuit on Josy Joseph means press must stand up for itself

vultures

In an ironic twist of fate, Josy Joseph, the National Security Editor with The Hindu and the author of A Feast of Vultures, is all set to be served on the platter to become the feast of corporate vultures in a country that slowly arrives at the verge of losing journalistic freedom. Jet Airways and its founder-chairman Naresh Goyal have filed a civil defamation suit on Joseph, seeking damages worth Rs 1,000 crore from both Joseph and Harper Collins. Another lawsuit worth Rs 1,000 crore has been filed against Outlook India for publishing an extract of his book.

Why? Josy Joseph, in his book, wrote about the alleged links between gangster Dawood Ibrahim and Jet Airways. According to Scroll.in, advocate Uttam Datt, who is representing Joseph in the case, said “They are scared the allegations will hurt their reputation. But we stand by the story, we have documented proof for every claim made in the book. We have evidence to defend ourselves”.

In an interview with Scroll.in in August 2016, Joseph said “Every word in the book is backed by documents. I’m ready for it if there is any litigation; I think it would be a great fight to have”. Read more

Source: DailyO


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Censorship and sensibility in Indian literature

Writers in India today are not fully censored, but their freedoms are imperfect and broken, says Nilanjana Roy: FT

Perumal_Murugan_650 (1)We are backstage at one of Delhi’s older auditoriums, in a green room crowded with stiff, governmental furniture. The writer Perumal Murugan, a quiet man with the watchful eyes of a kestrel and a gift for stillness, is here to celebrate his court-ordered resurrection.

Murugan declared his death as a writer in January 2015, going into seclusion and requesting that his publishers remove his books from circulation. There was a rare sense of jubilation at seeing this Tamil novelist and poet with a large and loyal readership return from the brink of exile after the Chennai High Court ruled that he must be free to write. So few of the writers and artists, from the late MF Husain to Wendy Doniger or Salman Rushdie, who have been targeted by extremists from Hindu, Muslim or Christian hardline groups, had recovered their lost freedoms.

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