Banned in Gaza

Those who celebrate Banned Books Week by reading a banned book now have two more books for their reading list.

Hamas banned the sale of two Arab novels and confiscated the copies from a bookstore in Gaza city, sources said Tuesday.

The sources, who preferred their names not to be disclosed, said plainclothes policemen confiscated all the copies of the two novels from a bookstore near Al-Azhar University and showed the owner an order from the interior ministry stipulating the ban on the books.

The order said the two novels, Chicago by Egyptian writer Alaa Al-Asswani and Feast for the Seaweeds by Syrian author Haidar Haidar, “don’t agree with the teachings of Islamic Sharia.”

Alaa Al-Asswani’s Chicago has reviews in the NYT and in the Telegraph. The Amazon reviews are always illuminating too, but no link love for them. Amazon has started inserting really intrusive ads in the middle of my text whenever I link to them. In a nutshell, the reviewers say read his 2002 The Yacoubian Building set in Egypt instead. (But of course now that it’s been banned, that changes everything. :)

Haidar Haidar‘s 1983 A Feast for the Seaweeds or maybe “banquet for Seaweeds” وليمة لأعشاب البحر is a little harder to find, no current reviews, although there seem to be downloads available, especially in Arabic. Apparently it triggered demonstrations against it in Cairo as late as 2002.

…which leads circuitously to this list of authors confiscated from a Cairo book fair:

~Moroccan novelist Mohamed Shoukri’s Al-Khayma (The Tent);
~Joseph Harb’s Al-Sayeda Al-Baydaa dhat Al-Shahwa Al-Kuhliya (The White Woman of the Dark Blue Lust);
~Egyptian writer Yehia Ibrahim’s Hikayat Majnouna (Mad Stories)
~and, hardest-hit with three confiscated titles each, Moroccan feminist Fatma Al-Mernissi’s Al-Harim Al-Siyassi (The Political Harem), Hal Antum Muhassanoun Did Al-Harim? (Are You Fortified against the Harem?) and Al-Khawf min Al-Hadatha (Fear of Modernity)
~and Egyptian feminist Nawal El-Saadawi’s Awraq min Hayati (Pages from my Life), the second part of her autobiography, Al-Hub fi Zaman Al-Naft (Love in the Age of Petrol) and Suqout Al-Imam (The Fall of the Imam).

Mernissi has been a favorite of mine, some perceptive vignettes, I think on loan from the Vatican library in Amman, but I don’t remember the title now.

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