Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Midnight's Children Banned ... and a Hundred Others

Breaking news from Raman - Salman's Rushdie's Midnight's Children, possibly the most important novel of the last fifty years, is now banned in Malaysia:
... some barely literate little Napoleon - to borrow Pak Lah's term - sitting behind a KDN desk in Johor Bahru has decided that the book is not suitable for Malaysians
And it gets worse:
We spoke to the distributor of this title. He confirmed that all Salman Rushdie books are now getting the 'treatment'. He related how he tried to ship in the hardback edition of Shalimar the Clown, and was told that it was 'restricted'. He didn't argue. He says he never argues, because he wants the rest of the shipment to go through. This is how all Malaysian (and Singaporean) shippers are treated. If they decide to argue, every single one of the hundred odd boxes will be detained for 'further inspection', if not ripped open right there on the tarmac. If a complaint is made 'further up', this treatment can be expected for every subsequent shipment. It is not surprising then that distributors prefer to suffer in silence.
Raman has also posted up a list of over 100 banned books (from just one distributor, note!) and proposes a rather nice little party game you can play with it. Which is really the only way to cope with all this silliness. But he's right - the laughter quickly gets replaced by outrage ... and then with a deep deep sense of sorrow.

And then, I have to be honest here, with the thought who wants to live in a country where books are banned?

Update:

Meanwhile ... Midnight Lily gets enraged on behalf of Dorothy the Dinosaur. Eyeris records a conversation between KDN officers as they sort through the books, Sashi says "Bullcrap!" Suanie says WHAT?!?!?!??! WHY?!?!?!??!, while Minishorts decides to lament and worry. Sharanya says Oh. My. God. and ponders the threat Sponge Bob Squarepants poses to society. And Whereinsoever ponders the apparent contradiction between announcements of reading campaigns and book-bannings.

Let's hope someone is listening!

Related Posts:

Index: On Censorship

49 comments:

sympozium said...

Yes, who wants to live in such a mentally-backward country? No wonder the literary scene is dead. The Asian Man Book Prize (sorry if I got the name wrong, can't remember its exact name at this moment of white-hot fury) people were right to exclude Malaysia from its list. Oooh, imagine if the two Americans in Langkawi had been caught reading any of the Rushdie books when the anti-khalwat team burst in on them!! Yikes!!! The horror, the horror!

__earth said...

hey, me and some friends may organize a little gathering, talking to each other about book censoring. Would you like to join?

lil ms d said...

that's it sharon!!!

first the khalwat case in langkawi. then yesterday i met chines muslims who told me heart rendering tales of life here. now books are being banned left right and centre.

i'm maxing out my cards on amazon. aaaaaaaaaaaaaa fedap betul!

bibliobibuli said...

-earth - i'm very into holding a reading . but as raman said to me the other day, why meet illogic with logic? what do you expect to change?

anyway, let me know what you have in mind

sympozium - nice one!

ms d - your column the other day in the star was really good, and necessary. yes, the comfort of amazon ...

Ted Mahsun said...

WHAT!!! But the paperback copy of Shalimar just came out!! GRRR!!! *seethe seethe*

sympozium said...

And Shalimar was a return to form after the indulgent crud that was "FURY" :-)

animah said...

Just looked at the list. "Vogue" Make Up??
But what completely blew my mind was the fact that SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora The Explorer and the Wiggles were on the list too?!!! My God, they're kids books for crying out loud. My daughter's favourites. What's next, Pingu?!!! Winnie the Pooh?? (remember he's got a best mate who is of an offensive species)
I'm outraged enough to write a play.
Earth - I'd be interested. When and where?

Alex said...

The Wiggles? omg... but hey. there's always the Internet. and amazon. and torrent sites with ebooks :D

suanie said...

i just looked at the list. HOW CAN THEY BAN SPONGEBOB!!! :P

but seriously, do you know if there's someone/somewhere we could write to in query to why the books are banned?

xpyre said...

midnight's children, shalimar the clown, fury - crap, even *knife of dreams*, a *fantasy* work is banned. banned. banned.

crap. maybe it's time somebody finds a way to make these books available online.... for special free viewing/reading for malaysians.

ah, crap!!!

bibliobibuli said...

suanie - try kdn. but you can't possibly expect an answer from them????!!! i did once try phoning up the KDN to ask but it was kafkaesque - just got passed around passed around. the best bet is to just publicise this far and wide on our blogs and let it get picked up by the government here and by the media overseas. embarrassment will work better than logic.

spongebob is gay apparently. the sexuality of the wiggles is also questionable. so too is barney. dora probably is too - why give her the benefit of the doubt? whose next? the simpsons and a little homerphobia?

damn we're playing raman's parlour game!

Sharanya Manivannan said...

Oh.My.God.

animah said...

I don't think Dora is gay. She likes monkeys... in boots.

sympozium said...

God, that Simpsons episode called "Homer's Phobia" was hilarious! Especially the dedication at the end, "To the Gay Steel MillWorkers of America - Keep on Reaching for that Rainbow!"

bibliobibuli said...

sure the monkey isn't gay? or maybe it's because the show teaches survival techniques for illegal border crossing which raises the spectre of a mass invasion of singaporeans swimming across the causeway to enjoy the better quality of life in the jungles of johor?

(raman, i'm getting good at this game)

animah said...

Dora's a little different from the normal programmes/books. You have just a few seconds to think real hard about whether the little pig is hiding (a) behind the coconut tree; (b) in the huge ugly mansion built without planning approval or (c) in a swanky office on the Fourth Floor of the PM's office.
Whatever you guess, Dora will say, yes you're right. He's in the coconut tree. We have to go and rescue him before he falls down. [notice an entire generation of 3-7 year olds who constantly say "we have to..." in a very Dora voice].

The point is that Dora challenges your ability to think. That in itself is a great threat to the security of this nation.

animah said...

Correction: Dora challenges you and makes you think.

bibliobibuli said...

yes - dangerous. mustn't think. mustn' ...........................................................zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tiara said...

Good thing I still have Rushdie's SV with me, then ;)

dreamer idiot said...

SHOCKED is an understatement. I understand if that particular fatwaed novel is banned, but the other novels as well. As Sympozium puts it, "the HoRRor, the Horror!".

What on earth is happening? To compound it further, only a minority cares about such blanket bannings. Yes, books or literature for that matter, will be controversial and contain onjectionable things, but if we do not read, engage and debate about issues, we are heading towards a terrible form of intolerance and close mindedness, literally becoming a 'policed state' with thought police. No wonder we are seeing signs of certain kinds of behaviours in this country.

A very sad day indeed....

Greenbottle said...

hmmm

I have the following books in my library...i hope nobody come and ban my house...

A History of God (Paperback)
Shalimar the Clown (Hardcover)
Atomised (Paperback)
Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War On America (Paperback)
Midnight's Children (Paperback)
Fury (Paperback)
Shame (Paperback)
Step Across This Line: Collected Non-fiction 1992-2002 (Hardcover)
The Swimming-pool Library (Paperback)

Alex Tang said...

Hmmm..can someone please tell me which books are not banned?

bibliobibuli said...

hang around a while, alex and probably everything will be and the bookshops will only be able to sell greeting cards

lainieyeoh said...

sigh. and i had just been contemplating getting my own copy of satanic verses for my bookshelf.
who decides what to ban, anyway?

lainieyeoh said...

yaya sisterhood, spongebob and read aloud children's classics? and bloody anatomy for the artist?

oh i give up.

Anonymous said...

Need to start digging a very big hole in my garden. Hope I have enough time to hide all my books before they drag me to jail....... in possession of illegal materials.

lil ms d said...

we should have a petition.

sharon. pen pen pen pen. everyone - pen pen pen pen pen.

aiyoh we're supposed to set up PEN Malaysia lah! bila mau jumpa?!

bibliobibuli said...

lainie - actually the ban only applies to copies of the book with that partic. isbn number. they didn't like the bikini clad ladies on the cover of divine secrets of the yaya sisterhood, but other editions of the book were okay.

nobody gonna drag anyone anywhere ... my copy of satanic verses is still safe (and the most borrowed book on my shelves) and no-one came a knocking for 16 years ...

i don't think anyone is going to worry if you have these restricted copies or not, which is in itself another irony.

ms d - indeed. will email you.

Subashini said...

indeed, outrage is about the only emotion i feel right now...

this is pretty scary... god knows when they will finally get a clue about the books that sit in the "classics" section of the bookstores, and realise that no book is free from 'controversial' content, unless of course it's "who moved my cheese" or "the seven steps of highly effective morons" or something along those lines.

sharon, thanks for doggedly highlighting every aspect of this quite horrifying new phenomenon in your blog, and for others who are doing the same as well. i agree that publicity is key, and will gladly jump onboard for any petitions that we want to create, or boats that we want to build to get out of this country (although you can't quite jump onboard an unbuilt boat. hmm)

alliedmartster said...

Such is life in Malaysia, huh?
It is ok to condone cheating politicians (don't you think that it is such a mild word to use? Cheat?)building mansions, it is ok to condone plagiarism in mainstream media, but it is definately not ok to have the common public reading these 'unfavourable works of the condemmed writers' as deemed by some nitwit who probably doesn't even have a diploma!
Let's not even go to the Head of Department not knowing his honchos were out at 4.00am in the morning punding and scaring the daylights of two peace loving foreigners wanting to 'enjoy the sights and sounds' of Langkawi (They certainly did get the sounds though!). . .Oh yes, it is perfectly OK to terminate pregnant Stewardesses and get away with it. .

lainieyeoh said...

any idea if there's a list available online where we can see what exactly they base these censorships on?

eyeris said...

Ban Robert Jordan! The Wheel of Time sucks anyway! :D

bibliobibuli said...

subashini - hi! and many thanks for the kind words and support

alliedmarster - there's tons of stuff to get upset about. i couldn't believe the nst front-page story the other day about half the rivers in this country being seriously polluted! got so emotional that this should happen to one of the most beautiful natural environments in the world.

but this is just one corner where i feel i can fight something that's very wrong.

lainie - why do you expect the kdn to be transparent and the finding of this info easy to come by? this is the whole crux of the matter - the reasons aren't given! the information isn't easy to come by! the kdn seem uncontactable by email - you can't get hold of the right people if you phone. even the DAP couldn't get answers about banned books answered! i get tip offs from distributors, bookshops (mainly raman who is doing a great job here) and readers. i put up every scrap of info i have.

what is needed now is thorough investigation by the media - ministers need to be interviewed and the whole thing blowing open. who has the guts to do that? frankly if this were anywhere in the wicked west this would be front page news! i have tipped off everyone i know with a media connection ... maybe you could do the same. (and maybe you could be the one to chase the story???)

lainieyeoh said...

Right, just wanted to get that sorted out. Now that I know what's up:
*repeatedly bangs head against wall*

lemme see what i can do - though in terms of media connections you probably know more than i do.

eyeris said...

i have it in very good authority that at least three reporters from a certain daily are working on stories on the banned books... :P

philters said...

i'll see what my media capacities can do...

banning books in the first place is disturbing, but the selections of books are just ridiculous.

madcap machinist said...

What is the real difference between 'banned' books and 'restricted' ones?

Could it be simply a case of titles randomly (or not so randomly) being pulled out of circulation or allowed only in limited numbers while the authorities put them under scrutiny?

Most of the 'restricted' titles will then be routinely derestricted, while some may be banned outright, or more likely, be kept on the restriction list indefinitely -- KIV'ed.

Just a theory...

sashi said...

Funny thing about this.

People I know are beginning to look for the banned books to read. I myself have just borrowed a copy of Midnight's Children from a friend, and others are asking around for some others.

Maybe the KDN are using reverse psychology to get Malaysians to read more?

Nope, maybe not. :)

bibliobibuli said...

eyeris - you give me the best news of the day!!!! lainie can relax now too.

philters - welcome and thanks

machinist - the difference is explained here

madcap machinist said...

The thing is, I'm not so sure whether 'restricted' books are really banned. As we see from some titles like Spongebob, it seems that these titles are being picked randomly. Or, perhaps they are being restricted because of some bureaucratic snag.

We should get to the bottom of this, but let's not over-react.

bibliobibuli said...

machinist - the books you mention are 'restricted' not 'gazetted' i.e. they have been stopped by kdn in jb. they may still be in the bookshops for the moment. if you read raman's website you will see how this works in practice for the distributors

sashi - yes, ain't reverse psychology great. thor made that very same point.

midnite lily said...

I found this... http://www.domini.org/openbook/malay20030414.htm
The statement issued by the KDN stated that the "printing, import, production, reproduction, sale, circulation, distribution and possession of books listed under the schedule are banned in the country". A jail sentence of up to three years and/or a maximum fine of 20,000 Malaysian ringgits (approx. £3,340) will be given to anyone found guilty of breaking this ban.
It's dated April 2003, but can anyone tell me if the penalty still exists?

bibliobibuli said...

yes midnight lily, the law hasn't been changed but as far as i know no-one has yet been prosecuted. it refers btw only to the gazetted books not the restricted ones.

but what happens when you've bought a book legally and then it makes the list???

midnite lily said...

i was thinking the same too. =(
wat's the difference between a restricted book and a gazetted book?

bibliobibuli said...

i posted up raman's explantion here and there's more on his website. also in my archived posts on censorship. in short:

... one there is the official ban with the papers signed off by the Home Minister or his Deputy, then there is the other 'ban', arbitrary and unpredictable. It is almost as if there are two authorities running in parallel. The first one is quite clear-cut (even if you don't agree with it). The second is pure Kafka. Case in point: none of the books that have been proscribed by the KDN this year (according to the distributors) have been gazetted.

no real explanation has ever been given for the banning of the books on religion for e.g. tho' the DAP has tried.

Anonymous said...

#25 Practice of Business Statistics????
I need to get this book! And read it from cover to cover!

mumsgather said...

Its ridiculous! I cannot see any reason nor understand the criteria used to ban some of the children's books. For example I have the Disney’s Counting Adventures one. Its an excellent interactive book with lovely nursery rhymes music and teaches the child to count. I really cannot understand why anyone would want to ban a wonderful book like this one, the other children’s books or the breastfeeding book. What criteria do they use to ban the books? Hmm lets see, maybe the little mermaid looks too sexy or Mowgli the jungle boy is half naked (dressed only in his red underpants) or theres too many dalmations running around the book. (I wrote this comment in 5Xmom blog but had to repeat it here becos I'm so saddened that even books like these are being banned!)

bibliobibuli said...

it's looney, isn't it *sigh*

The Great Swifty said...

Right, time for me to chip in my thoughts, didn't know something this big had just occurred.

All I can say is...

Shit.

(Good thing I have Midnight's Children, traded my 'French Lieutenant's Woman' for that with Justin)