Friday, October 14, 2005

Banned Books

My bibliobibulous prose has reached the glossies! I have a piece in this months edition of new men's magazine chrome.

(SMART//SHARP//SEXY reads the cover. That of course refers to the writers. Too bad about the rest of you.)

There among the oiled torsos and designer stubble and the lip-glossed pouting pretty boys is my article They Ban Books, Don't They?

No prizes for guessing who the "they" is.

But what came as a huge surprise to me writing the article was just how many books simply do not make it onto the shelves of bookshops. Apart from the more high profile cases where organisations like the DAP or religious bodies kick up a fuss, no announcement is made about what is banned.

Anyway, I guess we must just accept that the Kementarian Keselematan Dalam Negeri (The Ministry of Internal affairs) has the interests of all Malaysians at heart. It would be too bad if you had access to information not sanctioned by a government body. Those in power are always wiser than you. They do not need to explain their actions.

And yes, it would be terrible if you had access to banned books like Thousand and One Nights (a.k.a. The Arabian Nights). Don't, whatever you do, spend time here.



And please avoid taking a peek at Khalil Gibran's The Prophet. It has been banned in Malaysia since 1992, never mind that it has been described as "one of the most inspirational works to come from any modern poet in the Arab world". (Psssst, you want to buy a copy? Just e-mail me ...)



It's quite obvious too that Lady Chatterley's Lover is a corrupting influence. It doesn't matter that it is a tender love story which shows the spiritual and regenerative powers of sex. The authorities have decided that it is smut and out of bounds for you. There's a lot more sex in last year's Booker prize winner. Explicit gay sex into the bargain. Come to that, there is more sex in just about any novel you pick up nowadays. All of them should be banned.

I end here due to sheer lack of energy, not from a shortage of books to talk about. If you want to read more you'll have to buy chrome.

(And if I can't tempt you, Dina Zaman has a great piece in it telling guys how to buy lingerie for their women. Lady Chatterley - eat your heart out!)

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well welcome to the glossies. Women writing for men's magazines, what will they think of next. Silly why governments ban books isn't it ? it's not as if you can censor the Internet and still maintain a reputation s a reasonably forward-thinking country.

Hari said...

My bibliobibulous prose has reached the glossies! - congratulations!

As for banning books, "Those in power are always wiser than you." I think not! The complete lack of wisdom is at an all time high.

It's like the movies - can't forget the time they banned the movie based on comics (I think) called Daredevil. And why? All because it had the word 'devil' in the title.

starlight said...

I find it very insulting that someone else is banning books they probably haven't even read themselves because they think Malaysians aren't intellectually matured enough to read them. Even more so when literary gems are banned solely because of the unfortunate choice of words in the title. This gives a whole new meaning to judging a book by its cover!

My father somehow has a copy of The Prophet in his personal library. I first read it when I was in the first throes of puppy love and I loved it!

I can't remember whether you included this in your column but The Rape of Nanking is also banned. No prizes for guessing why.

Anonymous said...

Er.. where exactly is that banned books list ?

Anonymous said...

"Er.. where exactly is that banned books list ?"

I think the list is banned. If they publish the banned books list, then everyone will go out (overseas/Internet) and buy it, innit?

I have 2 copies of the Prophet. I remember being lent one by my first boyfriend, then took it back to UKM, where my newly pious roommate, assuming it to be about Mohamad grabbed it in great anticipation. She was shocked by the drawings and the description of wine, and declared it blasphemous of the Prophet. I read it, being shallow and silly (then), a little bit perplexed.

Soon after I started reading sufi poetry and began to understand the references to wine and the Beloved, the cupping of breasts and all that. I have read and loved, although not fully comprehended Shaikh Nazim's book Oceans of Mercy which is banned.

Also Karen Armstrong an excellent writer. I have Battle for God. One of her's is banned, I think the one on Islam.

The fact is that the authorities who are banning books cannot understand mysticsm which underlies/unifies all religions. They feel threatened by what they cannot understand, and like most of humankind, act through fear by stamping out that which they fear.

Lately, the government has been banning "deviant groups". What is deviant is not exactly clear, except that it does not follow Saudi Arabia dictated interpretation of a religion they call Islam. In stamping out "deviant" groups, our fundamental rights are slowly and quietly being whittled away.

So when are you going to say Stop, or will you continue with your life saying this is none of my business, until you discover, you have no rights left?

Animah

The Visitor said...

Animah, where do u currently reside?

Anonymous said...

I reside in Malaysia where I am subject to 2 laws: 1 - the ordinary laws which apply to all in Malaysia and 2 - the so called Muslim laws where I can be charged for holding an opinion contrary to fatwa (apparently Malaysia is the only country in the world where a fatwa is backed up by legislation in this way). Fatwas are made by "religious" persons who are not elected by the people. This means fatwas in Malaysia are law which are not made by the legislature, and therefore surely must be against the Federal Constitution.

Sorry, was the answer longer than you bargained for?

Animah

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way it is illegal for a Muslim to smoke in Selangor, anyone know that? So again, are we going to allow this unrelenting intrusion into personal rights to continue?

Animah

bibliobibuli said...

anonymous - dd you think they care about reputation?

hari- ouch - i was aiming for irony, y'know ...

starlight - no didn't know until marissa told me later about the banning of The Rape of Nanking 'cos they thought it was about ... that is just too funny! And just illustrates the arbitrary manner of book-banning here.

anonymous - I did manage to find one banned booklist (very out of date) on the internet which I printed out. If I manage to find it again i will post the link. Otherwise I had to rely on what my contacts in the marketing departments who have access to more recent versions of the list - and even then I was told that books not on the list are often confiscated when consignements arrive. Often no justification is given.

I also contacted the DAP to find out if there had been any response from the Misnistry on the religious books that had been banned. I tried to get a statement from the Ministry but got the phone-on-hold-for-hours-passed-from-pillar-to-post kind of treatment aimed at making an enquirer give up.

animah - The fact is that the authorities who are banning books cannot understand mysticsm which underlies/unifies all religions. They feel threatened by what they cannot understand, and like most of humankind, act through fear by stamping out that which they fear.

You're so right ... there is a much deeper debate and I wonder if it is being opened up? You're much better qualified to talk about this than I am ...

visitor - animah is cup-of-tea- somewhere-nice-distance-away-after- puasa - why?

bibliobibuli said...

animah - rulings that are unconstitutional can (in theory) be challenged in the courts of course ... but hey, who has the courage ... and the energy?

Kak Teh said...

hmmm i read lady chatterley's lover when I was young and that was a long, long time ago. I remember finding it hidden somewhere in an old cupboard in my sister's house.

bibliobibuli said...

cupboard hidden books kak teh, are oiften the most delicious ...

The Visitor said...

i was told Lady Chatterley's Lover is a saucy book, u know, the type that young boys read privately in the bathroom. (wink wink)

so, during my teens, with great eagerness and hormones raging, i got hold of a copy and read it in the bathroom.

and in the end, i went "WHAT DA F--??? THIS IS EROTIC???"

hahahaha.

i don't think LCL is banned. i've seen it in bookshops everywhere.

bibliobibuli said...

Visitor - just repeating the info I was given by bookshops who haverr the official list ... I can tell you where to buy The Prophet but yes 'tis banned for sure ... Raman has had copies of that and all the rest of Gibran's books confiscated ... I think some bookshops just quietly close one eye and stock the book anyway.

Trouble is too that with so little transparency, no-one really knows ...

Who would have beleived that The Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood would be banned? (Cover was offensive - women wearing bikini tops).

LCL is very mild by today's standards.

infin said...

The bad news is that people never seem to notice all the hypocritical goodness the powers that be exude.

The good news is that the enforcement is just as lacking as the legislators' wits.

;)

Mei said...

Try Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses - I even got the letter from the Ministry when the stupid ex sent it back. *bawls*

Funny how they ban all these books based on covers and you get Kino selling books like Delta of Venus by Anais Nin. Talk about double standards or lack of a proper standard. ~_~

I'd love to get my hands on these books not because of the 'femes' issue of banning them but because some of these are actually real gems and address a lot of deeper issues. So these are the perks of living in M'sia. *sighs*

bibliobibuli said...

infin - you're spot on about enforcement, thank goodness

mei - there's always good old amazon - some packages get opened but most aren't ... or a trip overseas ...

and Satanic Verses? My most borrowed book. (Mostly by folks who never usually pick up litfiction from one year's end to the next ... nice irony, hey?)

Chet said...

I've never had packages from amazon.com opened before.

I did have a package of 8 CDs interrupted in its delivery for about a month in the Customs Department. Eventually, when I got the package, I saw "Kastam DiRaja Malaysia" tape on it, which meant the package was opened. Fortunately, nothing taken from the package, even tho at least one of the CD covers shows an almost nude Janis Ian. :D

bibliobibuli said...

Some packages are opened ... and sometimes books get damaged in the process - my sister sent me a copy of Michael Moore's Stupid White Men and when Customs shlashed open the packaging, they slashed into the cover and half the pages too. I should have complained but just couldn't be bothered to make the effort.

anna said...

I can't believe I am living this again! When I was in my teens, in Italy, end of sixties, we almost had the same problems as you today with banning 'what is right and what is not' per il popolo. The Vatican had this famous French song by Serge Gainsbourg "Je t'aime, moi non plus" banned because they were light whispers and words about lovemaking (very erotic I must say).While Lady Of Chatterley and sexual educational books were 'passed under the bench', not because they were officially banned but because Catholics morals had us feel guilty. A few years later, Italian private (nonpaying) TV channels were broadcasting porno movies at any time of the day and night! We are a young republic, and I guess, we wanted to, once and for all, gain our independence from the multisecular hands in hands government of the Church with the monarchy over the 'popolo'. I leave to you to draw your own conclusion of why this is happening in Malaysia. But, someone must explain this to me: why do you, among Muslims, and to a certain extent Chinese, find normal to F. your head off (by having multiple choices wiwes), stuff yourself 'insensibly' with food like there is no tomorrow, that is abusing your body, while you do not accept 'abusing your eyes or your mind' with 'not-sensible' material?

Kak Teh said...

during those pre-internet days, the london office of the nst was given the task to send newspapers back to the head office. and this would include the observer, guardian, the times and of course the sun and the star. The guy packing the newspapers was given the instructions - that for page three girls - he had to draw bikini tops - and believe me - he came quite an expert doing that! hehe!

bibliobibuli said...

Yep. Lady Chatterley's Lover is banned. Thanks to my friend who forwarded the official list to me. Visitor got me thinking for a little minute I had made a booboo.

Anonymous said...

If the list is banned, how do you know you have the right list ?

bibliobibuli said...

List is not banned but hard to get hold of ...

Anonymous said...

okay.. if it's not banned where do you get it ? and how do you know that's not just a made-up list ?

bibliobibuli said...

'Tis an official list and if you e-mail me I'll let you take a peak ...

Anonymous said...

Divine Secrets was not banned.. I saw a copy with another cover.

-kar- said...

Found your site when google about banned books in Malaysia.

It's sad that Khalil Gibran's The Prophet is banned. No wonder I couldn't find it locally.

Latest I heard, Eleven Minutes by Paolo Coelho is banned too. It's one of the most amazingg book that able to relate sex, leadership, spirituality and self-awareness. Sex is just a font-end metaphor of how we have misused/abuse it daily.

bibliobibuli said...

hi Kar - "the prophet" is definaitely banned and yes, it is sad. but sometimes you can ... ahem ... find copies in certain bookshops. the paul coelho is not officially banned but may have been "restricted" i.e. not allowed in my kdn officers at the border. ask kinokuniya or raman at silverfish books as these shops seem to be quite clued up about what is available and what isn't. if all else fails try amazon.com or abebooks