Iran: banning Garcia Marquez book

From CNN, November 2007: 

Ban on Nobel laureate’s book spurs interest in Iran

An Iranian government decision to forbid the second printing of a Persian translation of Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel has spurred interest in the book, booksellers said Saturday.

The novel by the famed Latin American writer was translated into Persian and had an initial press run of 5,000 copies.

It was only banned after the Ministry of Culture received complaints from conservatives who believed the novel was promoting prostitution.

The ban has only provoked greater interest in the novel and on Saturday, copies of the book were being sold for more than twice their list price.

Ahmad Abbasi, 28, had to pay $3.70 to buy the novel on the black market — more than twice the price tag.

“I don’t know what the book is about. But when the government bans a book, there is something interesting in it. So, I’m buying the book out of curiosity,” he said while counting out his money for book dealer in central Tehran.

The novel, known as “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” in the West, was translated into Persian as “Memories of My Melancholy Sweethearts.”

It tells the story of an elderly man who had long used prostitutes and decides to mark his 90th birthday by sleeping with a 14-year-old virgin. He ends up falling in love with the girl.

The Culture Ministry, whose censors are responsible to check the contents of books before print, said a “bureaucratic error” led to the government giving permission for the novel to be published, the daily Etemad reported Saturday.

Culture Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi blamed the “negligence” of his subordinates and said the official who authorized the book’s publication has been dismissed, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.

“Necessary measures have been taken to avoid reoccurrence of such a printing,” Fars quoted Harandi as saying earlier this week.

Officials at Niloofar Publications, which published the first edition, confirmed Saturday they have been forbidden to put out the second edition.

“The first edition has sold out but we were ordered not to publish the second edition,” an employee with Niloofar Publications said Saturday, declining to give his name due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Garcia Marquez, who was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1982, is popular in Iran, which has translated and published many of his books, including “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

Iran has tightened censorship of books, films and music since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005.


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