The small emirate, once renowned for its relative liberalism, is now distinguished by the ardor of its censors: no less than 4,390 works were banned in five years.
The next Kuwait Book Fair, scheduled for November, promises to be talked about as much for the works that will be exhibited on its stands as for those who will be banned.
The small emirate of the Arab-Persian Gulf, renowned in the 1970s and 1980s for its relative liberalism, where artists such as the Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar and the Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali had found refuge, is now distinguished by the ardor of its censors. According to local media reports, in the last five years, no less than 4,390 books have been banned from distribution by the Ministry of Information, which is responsible for decreeing what Kuwaitis have the right to read or not.
Among the titles on the index, include translated foreign classics, such as Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, and masterpieces of Arabic literature, such as Salt Cities of the Saudi Abdel Rahman Mounif, which deals with the transformation of his country under the effect of oil, and planetary bestsellers, such as The World of Sophie, the Norwegian Jostein Gaarder, an introduction to philosophy in the form of adventure novel.
“More freedom in Riyadh”
” It’s so sad. We were precursors in the Gulf, in terms of artistic and literary production, and we find ourselves today kidnapped by a band of ignorant, “protested Boutheïna Al-Issa, a rising star of the Kuwaiti world of letters, whose one of the books, which includes a rape scene, was censored. “There is now more freedom at the Riyadh Book Fair than in Kuwait,” says Taleb Rifai, another local writer, demoralized at the thought that his country will award less prizes to the literature that the very puritanical and authoritarian Saudi kingdom.
According to Mohamed Al-Awach, a member of the censorship committee of the ministry …