Monday, February 23, 2009

Dubai Literary Festival Off to a Rocky Start

The first Dubai Literary Festival begins this week, and it's already off to a rocky start. The festival was expecting an all-star line-up, including Margaret Atwood, Anthony Horowitz, Kate Adie, Jung Chang, Penny Vincenzi, Ranulph Fiennes, and Louis de Bernieres. Writer Geraldine Bedell was planning to launch her novel, The Gulf Between Us, at the festival. Bedell has stated that her novel is "the only novel I know of in English (but I can’t think there are many in Arabic, either) set in a Gulf emirate.”

As reported by multiple sources, when festival organizers discovered one of the minor characters in Bedell's novel is a gay sheik, Bedell's invitation to the festival was rescinded based on fears that her novel “could offend certain cultural sensibilities.” Outraged by this apparent act of censorship, Margaret Atwood promptly withdrew from the festival. For more details of the controversy, see the full story (with links to sources) at MobyLives. Now, according to a post at the Literary Saloon, it appears that the controversy may have been overstated.

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