It is perhaps less of a surprise that the Arabic translation of the best-selling and acclaimed Malayalam novel ആടുജീവിതം, or Goat Days, has been banned in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and more of a surprise that the Bahrain-based Gulf News Daily is reporting on it:
Benyamin’s novel — winner of the 2009 Kerala Literary Academy Award, longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, and shortlisted for the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature — is based on the real life story of an Indian emigrant going missing in Saudi Arabia.
The Arabic translation was apparently available at this year’s Riyadh International Book Fair.
According to its English-language publisher, Penguin India, the novel’s protagonist is an Indian man, Najeeb, and:
Najeeb’s dearest wish is to work in the Gulf and earn enough money to send back home. He achieves his dream only to be propelled by a series of incidents, grim and absurd, into a slave-like existence herding goats in the middle of the Saudi desert.
The Gulf News Daily article, written by Bahraini poet Laala Kashef Alghata, notes that the Arabic translation, published by “Aafaq Bookstore in Kuwait, has not gone down well with the region’s censors.”
“I was told by my translator Suhail Wafy that the book had been banned in the UAE and Saudi,” Benyamin told the Gulf News Daily (GND). “I don’t know why it is banned because it has nothing in it that is against a country or religion. It is all about human suffering. … I’m sad that they have chosen to ban it.”
Benyamin also told the GND, hopefully, “Bahrain is more open and has freedom of speech, so I hope that the book will be available there in the future.”
Benyamin told the GND he was hoping “media will come forward and speak about it in order to let the higher authorities rethink this stance.”
Benyamin himself lived in Bahrain for 21 years and wrote Goat Days in that nation, before moving to Kerala.
Read more about Goat Days in English:
Literature in the Oil Age: Goat Days
Positively reviewed in the UAE-based paper The National
الأدب في زمن النفط: أيام الماعز
Available as an ebook in English:
What a wonderfully small world that the translation of a book from my tiny home state in India would be the subject of a blog from Egypt.
Oh, well, considering Kerala is one of the world’s great literary centres, I should probably write about it more often.
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