CAIRO: Egypt has banned a number of Western and secular books from the 40th Cairo International Book Fair, including works by Czech author Milan Kundera and Morocco's Mohamed Choukri, publishers said on Monday. The Cairo book fair, the Arab world's largest, is dominated by Islamist and educational works, and the authorities have not said why the other works were seized at Cairo airport.
"The Egyptian authorities have given no explanation, we were neither informed nor consulted about this measure and the books have not been returned to us," said Rana Idriss, director of the Lebanese publishing house Dar al-Adab.
She said four works by Kundera, including "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting," were barred from the fair.
Germany's Al-Jamal publishers said the authorities had also seized copies of Moroccan author Choukri's autobiographical "For Bread Alone," which contains references to teenage sex and drug use and has, over the years, been banned and unbanned in several Arab countries. (Choukri wrote "For Bread Alone" in Arabic in 1972, and it was immediately translated into English by Paul Bowles. Though versions in 40 other languages followed, the Arabic edition didn't appear for 10 years. The Moroccan government has allowed the sale and possession of the book since 2000.)
The taboo-busting "Love in Saudi Arabia" by young novelist Ibrahim Badi has also been banned in Cairo, along with "Women of Sand and Myrrh" by Lebanon's Hanan al-Sheikh. The story deals with the position of women in the Gulf and mentions homosexuality.
Elias Khoury, a renowned Lebanese writer who describes himself as atheist, secular and left-wing, had his "As If She Were Sleeping" seized.
Egypt's State Information Service says that the Cairo book fair has "over the past years become a great cultural event, and a spacious scene for conducting dialogue among intellectuals, men of letters and artists." - AFP