Month: June 2008
I had always thought that Heinemann had stopped work on its African Writers Series, but Percy Zvomuya of the Mail & Guardian reports that the publishers want the series to continue, and are considering new manuscripts. They are also reissuing eight of their back titles as classics editions: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease, Bessie Head’s Maru and When Rain Clouds Gather, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat, Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba’s So Long A Letter.
The introduction for the classics edition of Season of Migration to the North is written by Wail Hassan, and I am happy to report that his piece will be republished in a forthcoming issue of the Nigerian literary magazine Farafina, which I guest-edited.
I’ve always been curious about the apparatus that makes book censorship possible, so I avidly read Youssef Aït Akdim’s article in Tel Quel magazine on “The Forbidden Books” in Morocco. There is apparently an office in the ministry of communications (sic) called the “service for foreign publications.” All distributor requests for book imports have to transit through this office.
If a book title is deemed suspicious, either because “it is suspected of sedition” or deals with a “sensitive subject,” the office requests a copy and an employee reads it and files a book report. The report is then turned over to the head of the office, who turns it over to the director, who turns it over to minister, and so on. According to the article, there is rarely an official decision, because once paperwork gets delayed a few times, the distributor gives up. But what about books that are published locally? The article doesn’t say.
Among the novels that have been censored in Morocco, at one point or another, the magazine lists: Mohamed Choukri’s For Bread Alone, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and Tayib Salih’s Season of Migration to the North. In non-fiction, the list is much longer and includes Stephen Smith’s Oufkir, un destin marocain, John Waterbury’s The Commander of the Faithful, and Moumen Diouri’s A qui appartient le Maroc?
On a related note, J.M. Coetzee delivered a speech at the University of East Anglia on the subject of censorship. Writing under the threat of censorship, Coetzee said, is “like being intimate with someone who does not love you.” I wish the talk had been made available online, but in the meantime, one can always read the short piece in Granta by Simon Willis, who was in attendance.
Someone sent me (thank you, whoever you are) an ARC of State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey. It’s an anthology of original writing on all fifty states of the union, ranging from personal essays to cultural commentary, from travel vignettes to cartoons. There are some intriguing pairings: Ha Jin wrote about Georgia and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh got South Dakota. Others are perhaps to be expected: The amazing Joe Sacco did something on Oregon, and Jhumpa Lahiri wrote about Rhode Island. But the review copy is a sampler, so Joe’s cartoon’s not in there. (Darn.)
In about ten days, I’ll be going to Asheville, North Carolina to teach in Warren Wilson’s MFA program. I know nothing about Asheville, but apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald once lived there (!), its minor league baseball team is called the “Asheville Tourists” (!!), and the average high temperature in July is 84 degrees (!!!).