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The Representation of the Syrian Revolution in Literature

“These literary works depict the political, social and religious realities of Syria before and after March 2011 in order to draw a more comprehensive picture of Syria’s culture. These cultural details lay the foundation and act as necessary components for the development of the narratives and their relation to the current situation in Syria.”


The need for writing

It would be inaccurate to assume that the literature centering on Assad’s family regime only started with the outbreak of the 2011 revolution. Some Syrian authors and dramatists have always addressed Assad’s politics in their works despite the fact that their criticism was indirect. They employed historical figures and events, constructing allegorical works so that they met the expectations of the censor. For example, some works were crafted to revolve around an event in pre-Islamic, Islamic or medieval Arab history and they exposed the ways the Arab kings ruled the masses. Through the interactions between the masses and the king, the monopoly of power alluded to the current politics of Syria and its corruption. Authors such as Mohammad al-Maghot, Mamduh Udwan, Sadallah Wanus and Zakaryya Tamer did not miss a chance to criticize the Syrian regime. however, there were not any explicit attempts to condemn that regime or its head.

With the outbreak of the revolution, the allegorical style would be abandoned because of the flooding of news of demonstrations, attacks, shelling and most importantly, the daily killing of innocent Syrians. Such incidents brought a radical change to literature. Due to the pace of news coming out of Syria, the media had to handle it in a way that served the needs of its audience, delivering the most up-to-date news without necessarily pinpointing the background of the revolution or taking into consideration the different constituencies that supported the revolution.

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8 Best Books on South-East Asia

From Cambodia to Vietnam, get lost in some of the region’s best literature.

South-east Asia has undeniably had its fair share of war and torment through the centuries, from colonisation in Malaysia to communist rule in Cambodia and civil war in Vietnam.

But in the 21st century, the countries are recovering from their pasts and are instead known by nicknames such as Cambodia’s The Land of Smiles and the Philippines’ moniker, The Pearl of the Orient Seas.

There are beautiful beaches, incredible mountains and welcoming people. You have super-modern cities and ancient temples, which combined form the fascinating area we call South-east Asia.

And if you can’t get there to see it for yourself, read about it. We selected eight books covering the region. This list includes a mix of new releases and some older titles that have become classics of their genre.

1. First They Killed my Father by Loung Ung: £7.99, Mainstream Publishing

Loung Ung’s story caught the attention of Angelina Jolie, who is currently directing a film for Netflix of her harrowing early life. Ung was forced to leave the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to become a child soldier at just five years old when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army captured the city. This non-fiction book graphically retells the story of a family – and nation – torn apart. She vividly describes the sight and smell of rotting corpses and being forced to eat whatever scraps they could get their hands on, and the terror and loss suffered by so many. It’s a story of survival that will grip you and not let go, even after you’ve turned the final page.

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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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Foreign authors warned about book censorship in China

Books translated for the fast-growing Chinese market may be censored without their authors’ knowledge, a writers’ advocacy group reports: The Guardian

A US-based advocacy group is warning Western authors to be vigilant about censorship of their work, which is sometimes done without their knowledge, in China’s fast-growing book publishing industry.

A report on Wednesday from the PEN American Center says translated versions of foreign books may be expurgated because of political sensitivities about such topics as Taiwan, Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on democracy protesters. But sexually explicit material and references to gay and lesbian issues are also frowned upon. Continue reading

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PEN Report: Foreign Authors and Chinese Censorship

Free expression and literacy advocacy group PEN America this week released the report “Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship.” The study, written by journalist Alexa Olesen, looks at how foreign authors are navigating China’s heavily censored and rapidly growing publishing industry, and offers a set of recommendations for those looking to publish in the PRC. AP summarizes the report’s findings...

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Call for boycott of Brevity magazine

Brevity Magazine published an essay “One Hundred Days in India” by Jennifer Sinor in its Winter 2015 issue. Owing to its cultural imperialist perspective, the essay has received several critical comments from around the world. But the editorial staff of Brevity has censored these comments.

Kahini, a non-profit literary-arts organization, has called for a boycott of Brevity until its editorial staff stops censoring the critical comments. With due respect to freedom of expression, Kahini has asked Brevity to publish all comments and has not insisted on removal or censorship of the essay. Blocking comments from readers is a breach of freedom of expression.

Kahini wants to preserve Brevity’s reputation as a venue of high quality literary work by encouraging its role as a platform for conversation.

-By Mantra Roy


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Penguin to destroy copies of Wendy Doniger’s book ‘The Hindus’

The HindusAll copies of American scholar Wendy Doniger’s “The Hindus: An Alternative History”, published by Penguin, will be recalled within six months and destroyed as part of a court-backed settlement with a group that called the 2009 book “insulting to Hindus.” Continue reading

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Justice in China: Emily Parker in conversation with Yiyun Li

Emily Parker talks with Yiyun Li about self-censorship in China, the line between fact and fiction, and whether it’s possible to create good art under a repressive regime: Guernica

yiyun-liEmily Parker: Is your new book based at all on the Zhu Ling poisoning case, or is it just a coincidence?

Yiyun Li: It’s not based on the Zhu Ling case, but I’m very familiar with it. I think this case has always been in the back of my mind, and it seems to me that it has a lot of significance to a whole generation of Chinese. Continue reading

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Censored Indian book to be released as e-book

“I will publish The Descent of Air India despite the censorship,” Jitendra Bhargava told Tehelka.  “It will be out next week in an e-book form.”

If you had evidence of all these claims, why did the publisher back out?
The book went through several rounds of editing and fact-checking, but the publisher, Bloomsbury — new to India — decided to settle out of court with the former civil aviation minister. I didn’t mention some cases because I didn’t have papers for them. For example, when Air India gave away its land to GVK Infrastructure. I didn’t have the papers for those. After the book was published, the former civil aviation minister sued the publisher and me. No minister will agree with a book that goes against him because of their need for public posturing. The day before the first day of hearing of the case, the publisher told me that they had settled out of court and presented the court their settlement deed where they agreed to withdraw the book. When the court asked me, I said I wanted to go ahead with the book and I had retained the copyright. Continue reading