The 2013 Kuwait International Book Fair (Nov 20-30) ends tomorrow. This year, there have been a number of award-winning authors on hand: Most notably Saud al-Sanousi, who won this year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his The Bamboo Stalk, top-105er Fahd Ismail Fahd, and Nada Faris, who was one of this year’s Iowa International Writing Program participants. But there remains the question of what’s available at the fair:
Three years ago, Egyptian publishers were rankled when dozens of books — including Ibrahim Aslan’s beautiful novella Two-bedroom Apartment and works by Gamal al-Ghitani, Khairy Shalaby, Mohamed Mansi Qandil, Ahdaf Soueif, Ibrahim Farghali, Galal Amin, Alaa al-Aswany, and others — were refused entry and banned from the fair.
At the time, 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.” Saudi novelist Abdo Khal boycotted the 2010 fair because of the book-bannings.
But this year, Senior Censor and Head of the Foreign Books Department at the Ministry of Information Dalal Al-Mutairi told the official Kuwait News Agency that “Kuwait enjoys a great amount of freedom when it comes to books, which is one of the reasons behind the fair’s continuous success.” Al-Mutairi “noted that it’s not possible to apply traditional censorship to the internet now with information technology allowing people to read censored books.” Nonetheless, print books are still censored, although al-Murairi said they “are very few, including those containing blasphemy, books that would cause religious tensions between people with different beliefs, and books that may negatively affect the country’s political or economic side.”
Meanwhile, Syrian publishers — who have been struggling mightily — didn’t get to this year’s Kuwait Book Fair. In the Syrian section, according to the US Department of Defense publication al-Shorfa, there were just stalls with boxes of books. Mohammed Taher tweeted: