On the Seizure of Kamel Riahi’s ‘The Tunisian Frankenstein’

APRIL 29, 2023 — In what Tunisian law professor Aymen Zaghdoudi called “another blow to freedom of expression,” the Tunisian International Book Fair opened with the seizure of Kamel Riahi’s latest and the closure of his publisher’s stand.

PEN America today released a statement condemning Tunisian President Kais Saied, who, they write, “gave a speech about freedom of thought to open the country’s national book fair, only to then have security agents of the state order the confiscation of a book, The Tunisian Frankenstein by author Kamel Riahi.” .

Security agents also shut down the stand belonging to Riahi’s publisher, Dar el-Kitab / La Maison du Livre. The newly released book, according to AFP, “depicts Saied as a local version of Frankenstein, created by a people looking to reject the new political system in Tunisia after the 2011 revolution that launched the Arab Spring.” 

Riahi told the AFP that authorities had been “looking for a pretext” to ban the book since its release.

Dar el-Kitab’s Habib Zoghbi told the AFP that security agents cited “possession of an unauthorized book” as justification for their actions.

Zoghbi told the AFP that the stand originally had 100 copies of the book on display, and that 80 were sold before the rest were confiscated.

PEN America added, in their statement, that “after the book was seized at the fair and readers went directly to the publisher in search of it, only to have the government respond with an order to ban the book entirely.”

From PEN: Government Seizure of Book Critical of Tunisian President Is Another ‘Alarming Sign’ of Deteriorating Democracy in the Country