Friday, October 13, 2006

Other Bannings

Two more victims of arbitary, pointless, narrow-minded book banning: Milan Kundera's Immortality and Laughable Loves. The news from Silverfish. I spoke to Raman yesterday and he only knew about the ban when he tried to order in copies of the book for his shop.

How long will it be before bookshops have no stock to sell?

What makes me angrier than the banning is how little public reaction there is to this news in Malaysia. And nothing in the mainstream media.

I thought that it was pretty telling that the Jakarta Post (registration necessary) carried (on page 3! half-page!) article protesting the ban of a history book, Ruth T. McVey's The Rise of Indonesian Communism on 30th September. In Stigma against communism kills freedom of speech with ban on history book, M. Taufiqurrahman writes:

The book focuses on Indonesian communism as its theme, a subject that was strictly off-limits in the country until the downfall of the authoritarian Soeharto regime in the 1990s. ... (It) is no rabble-rousing manifesto bent on persuading readers to take up arms and fight the powers that be. It's a highly pedantic textbook, not to say tedious in parts, which meticulously chronicles the development of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), from its founding to its temporary eclipse in 1927 after a failed insurrection against the Dutch colonialists. ... Every university student who cares enough to go to the public library will have probably come across this book, if they do not own a (photo) copy of it themselves. After all, it is compulsory reading for any student of political science during their early years in college.
The book was seized by Customs and Excise Officers at Soekarno Hatta International Airport.

Echoes in all this of the Malaysian situation, right? Especially the paranoia with the 'C' word.

But here's the difference. The paper investigated the story. Journalists called and hounded and followed leads and obtained statements from the officers involved and printed them. And even if:
McVey's book remains stashed away somewhere in a vault at the Customs and Excise Office. It seems the work, like so much of the country's history, has yet to see the light of day, buried under continuing bigotry and narrow-mindedness.
at least now the public (or at least those who read this english language paper) are aware of the issues.

Last night some friends met for buka puasa and a get-together. Most had seen Amir Muhamad's The Last Communist, either in the cinema or on DVD so it seems Singapore is doing a roaring trade from Malaysians it seems.*

Even banned stuff can be found here with a bit more effort, so perhaps that saps the will to fight on this issue. But to me the very fact that a book or film is banned without adequate reason, without debate, is a serious moral issue.

*Amir will be talking about his next (yet to be banned?) film tomorrow (5.30, Sat 14th) at Silverfish. Let Usha/Phek Chin know if you want to attend at 03-22844837

8 comments:

fred said...

But WHY are Kundera's books banned?! For what possible reason!?

bibliobibuli said...

i have no idea. neither has mr. raman. there is no reason given. no statement. just a form letter to the distributor and the seizure of books.

CW said...

That's very sad. So when the Malaysian govt talks about getting the public reading, what would they actually like people to read???

bibliobibuli said...

and that is the irony, cw.

Ted Mahsun said...

You can start by reading the biographies and speeches of our beloved leaders. Then the Quran. Then its translation. Everything else is or will be banned.

lil ms d said...

did i tell you the time i ordered from amazon a few books on healing - none of the psychic stuff, but alternative healing for endometriosis/ovarian problems etc? i ordered marjane satrapi's animated novel too.

got the package: satrapi was there but my 'healing' books were gone! haiyah! drove all the way to sentul PO to ask why my package was opened up and my books were gone.

the officer said my books were deemed offensive! and that was all he said.

i sat in the car and thought how could books on healing ovarian cancer etc etc be offensive? was it the woo-hoo cover? was it the title itself that was deemed un-Malay? un-Islamic?

persepolis is more subversive than books on breathing, visualisation lah!

weird thing is when i order erotica, you know books that you'd think would never get through, i get them! choy, they probably think my healing books have got jinns in there!

ps. i know customs check but does POS Msia have the right to censor and open up packages??

bibliobibuli said...

ms d - i didn't know this and again, find it very disturbing.

customs do open a certain proportion of parcels including those containing books.

if they open your parcel and don't like what they see they'll seize it. but they can't check everything and in years of buying books from overseas only a couple of parcels have been opened.

one time a parcel with a present from my sister was just slashed open with a blade that almost severed half an inch off the book!

Anonymous said...

I wonder.. I have to test a theory.