Saudi, UAE ban controversial novel
Manama, July 8, 2014
An Arabic translation of a novel by a former Bahrain resident has been banned in two Gulf states.
Aadujeevitham (Goat Days) was written by the author Benyamin and tells the story of an abused migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
It is based on real-life events and was a sensation in Kerala where it went through more than 50 reprints, was translated into English and appeared on the long-list for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2012.
But its Arabic translation, which has just been released by Aafaq Bookstore in Kuwait, has not gone down well with the region's censors.
"I was told by my translator Suhail Wafy that the book had been banned in the UAE and Saudi Arabia," Benyamin told the GDN.
"I don't know why it is banned because it has nothing in it that is against a country or religion. It is all about human suffering.
"I'm sad that they have chosen to ban it.
"Bahrain is more open and has freedom of speech, so I hope that the book will be available there in the future."
The author said he had hoped the story would strike a chord with an Arabic speaking audience and give readers an insight into how others lived.
"It was giving a picture of inhuman activities happening in some areas of the world," he said.
"I hope that the countries that have banned the book will rethink and remove the ban.
"I hope that the media will come forward and speak about it in order to let the higher authorities rethink this stance.
"As a writer, though, my duty is to write - never to think about bans. I will continue writing."
However, he added that despite the ban he expected determined readers would still manage to get a hold of the book.
"Even though some countries ban books, real readers will find me and read it," he said.
"However, this ban doesn't make me want to continue on in the same topic.
"There are many other areas that are still untouched, so I am trying to find those topics and write about them."
Meanwhile, the author attributed the success of his book to its human element and tale of suffering.
"It's a rare story, people don't really think that these stories really happen in life, so it was shocking to them," he said.
"It's also all about ultimate suffering and unlimited faith.
"It gives people courage to continue their own hard lives."
The book was banned in Arabic prior to its launch at the Riyadh Book Fair, but Wafy said he was already working on a second edition of the translation, which is expected to come out in two months.
"The work needs improvement in spelling and other errors," he said.
"Saudi Arabia has been tolerant to healthy criticism in literature and other art forms.
"I don't understand why the government is being strict with this book."
Benyamin lived in Bahrain for 21 years and wrote Goat Days while he was still here before moving to Kerala. - TradeArabia News Service