The View on Books Banned from Kuwait Fair: from Egypt, from Kuwait

Perhaps 25—or 35—books were newly censored from this year’s Kuwait Book Fair. (Twenty-five is the somewhat dubious number given out by Kuwait’s Ministry of Information. ANHRI said 35.) No, neither may seem like a lot. But somehow, these 25/35 books seem to have raised more eyebrows than the 230 titles banned in 2007, most of which I assume are still forbidden.

Perhaps it’s that regional writers—such as Abdo Khal, who declined to attend the Kuwaiti book fair because of the bannings—are growing more vocal.

Perhaps it’s that Egyptian authors felt unduly targeted.

The main complaint, both in Egypt and in Kuwait, seems to be that there’s no rhyme or reason to the bannings. (Of course, some, such as Egyptian author Galal Amin, say there is no excuse for any book bannings.) Over at the Kuwait Times, Badrya Darwish asks: “I wonder what criteria were applied in censoring over 30 titles that I have seen [on this year’s list of banned books].”

Sadi Awad, editor at Dar el Shorouk, told The National, “I think they banned them on the basis of their titles because they didn’t ask for example copies to read.”

Indeed, Darwish says: “In my opinion, the guy who censored the book definitely did it at random.”

However, in a somewhat backwards argument, Darwish goes on to suggest that all this not a big deal, because Kuwaitis don’t read, anyway. (Mightn’t Kuwaitis read if they had better access to books that were interesting and relevant to their lives? Or, alternatively: Americans are fat and eat too much fast food…so OK if we just take away their fruit and veggies?)

Meanwhile, over in Egypt, Al Ahram writer Mohammad Shoair gives a rundown of which Egyptian books are banned at the Kuwait fair.

From Dar el Shorouk

  • Mohammad Hassanin Heikal, Political Talk
  • Novels by Gamal El-Ghitani, Khairy Shalaby, Abdel-Hakim Qassim
  • Ibrahim Aslan’s Two Rooms and a Hall
  • Novels by Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid, Youssef El-Qaid
  • Mohammad Mansi Qandil (I assume Moon over Samarqand, although perhaps also Cloudy Day on the West Side?)
  • A novel or novels by Ahdaf Souief
  • Everything by Alaa el-Aswany (so that’s Yacoubian, Chicago, Friendly Fire, and his two recent works of nonfiction?)
  • Galal Amin’s autobiography
  • Books by Fahmy Howeidi, Mohammed Emara

Dar al-Ain (6 banned this year, 8 from previous years, for a total of 14). This year’s banned titles nclude:

  • Hussein Ahmad Amin’s Characters I Knew
  • Allal Bourqaya’s Pure Eternity
  • Ibrahim Farghali’s Sons of Gabalawi
  • Ezzat El-Qanhawi’s City of Pleasure
  • Mohammad Alaaeddin’s The Foot

However, Dar Al-Ain owner Fatma El-Boudi told Al Ahram:

There are salesmen within Kuwait able, through their connections, to bring in what books they want. Many of our books that were banned not only entered the country but were even discussed in seminars there. Sons of Gabalawi, for example, was the subject of more than one seminar.

Dar Merit

This Egyptian house is not participating in the 2010 Kuwaiti book fair. Director Mohammad Hashim told Al Ahram: “The one time I participated they banned 22 of my titles, and since that day I have not participated and have no intention of doing so.”

The most irritated among the Egyptians seems to be author Khairy Shalaby, who told Al Ahram: “What is there in my book that could offend the censor? What is there in Ibrahim Aslan’s book Two Rooms and a Hall? It is about the relation between two spouses: the wife dies and the husband remains alone.”

In fairness, not all Kuwaitis have been as blase about the bannings as Badrya Darwish. Kuwait Times‘ columnist Fouad Al-Obaid railed against “The state of Kuwait’s culture,”  and Hussain al-Qatari appreciates good books in “Of sense and censorship” . From back in 2007: “Kuwait writers stage protest.”