One possible harbinger of ongoing state censorship is the caretaker government’s Minister of Culture, Mohamed al-Sawy. His appointment has not been met with enthusiasm from most artists and writers. Novelist Gamal al-Ghitani, for instance, told Ahram Online that al-Sawy’s appointment was “a disaster that defaces Egyptian culture.”
…the present kind of censorship by say, religious conservatives, is much more damaging and much more frightening for the writer because you don’t know exactly who you are offending, where the threat is coming from or what the possible punishment might be. When the state was exercising censorship, you knew: the book would be banned and you’d be stopped from writing for a while–maybe even go to prison for a little while if it was really bad. All this is awful, of course, but at least it’s calculable.
Organizers of the Arabic Booker can put an extra feather in their caps today. Not only has the prize raised the profile of Arabic literature worldwide, but it has also given one writer a renewed feeling of social reponsibility.