10 January 08 | Chad W. Post

This past Sunday, the Guardian ran a very troubling article about a publishing crackdown in Iran:

After the 1979 Islamic revolution, the government imposed strict rules on book publishing. Since then, the Ministry of Culture has been charged to vet all books before publication, mainly for erotic and religious transgressions. All books, including fiction, are required to conform to Islamic law. [. . .]

A new regime of censorship began when Ahmadinejad took office. The cultural ministry imposed rules requiring renewed permits for previously published books. As a result, many books have been deemed unsuitable for publication or reprinting.

Some of these books include Dostoevsky’s The Gambler, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and some books by Virginia Woolf and Marguerite Duras.

In addition, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi—whose Missing Soluch was reviewed here last week—is refusing to publish:

“They [the governmental authorities] have not only made the publishers stop working, but also have put writers in a situation in which they have no inclination to write,” says Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, author of the Persian 10-volume bestseller Kelydar, who refuses to give his next book to a publisher as a protest against the government’s clampdown.

The situation sounds pretty scary in fact, with authors being imprisoned, lengthy delays in getting books approved by the Ministry, etc. In a way, this article is everything one fears in terms of government intervention.

There is one glimmer of hope at the end for all technophiles:

Reza Ghassemi, an important Iranian novelist based in France, recently published his new novel, The Abracadabra Murmured by Lambs, on the internet in a free ebook PDF format instead of facing government censorship and the formal permission procedure. His enovel has been reviewed and welcomed by the huge Iranian blog community much more warmly than if it had been published on paper.


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