Saturday at the International Book Fair in Tunis, opinions diverge as a result of the withdrawal of an essay that criticized president Kais Saied and the suspension of his publishing house’s stand.
Late in the morning, the publisher of the book “The Tunisian Frankenstein,” which features a caricature of president Saied, reopened its stand, assuring AFP that it had “cleared misunderstandings” with the Fair’s organizers.
Friday, security officers confiscated all for-sale copies and shut down the booth of “La Maison du Livre,” a prominent Tunisian publisher, citing “possession of an unauthorized book.”
And this occurred less than an hour after the opening of the Fair by President Saied, who came to deliver an impassioned plea to “liberate thought.”
Habib Zoghbi of the House of Book recanted his accusations of “censorship” on Saturday, after removing the tarpaulin he had draped over his booth and affixed the sign “closed by an arbitrary decision” to.
“The book in question was confiscated not due to its content, but because it was not on the list initially submitted to the fair’s director as required by the rules,” the author’s publisher explained.
This novelized essay is presented by its author, Kamel Riahi, as a “political” work, evoking a Frankenstein personified by Kais Saied, who, according to the author, was elected by riding the anger and frustrations of a populace dissatisfied with the system in place since the 2011 Arab Spring Revolution.
The publisher regretted the “inflammatory statements” and emphasized that the withdrawal of the book “was not censorship but a matter of procedure.” He explained that he omitted it from his initial roster due to printing delays.
Mr. Zoghbi confirmed that a few volumes of the book “are available in bookstores in Tunis,” that it will be reprinted, and that it will return to the Fair by May 7th.
On the adjacent stand of the publisher Meskiliani, which was closed on Friday “in solidarity” with the House of Books, the manager remained persuaded that the refusal of an unregistered book was merely a “pretext for censorship.”
Mortadha Hamza refers to “a book that traces what happens to opponents of the president” who denounce “an authoritarian drift” since Kais Saied’s coup d’état on July 25, 2021, which granted him complete authority.
“not normal” –
“It is not normal that in 2023 we can censor ideas and writing for any reason,” he stated.
However, he reopened his stand on Saturday, “the first real day of the Fair,” when families flock to take advantage of steep discounts on books, which are typically quite expensive.
Mohamed Bennour relativizes the incident surrounding the book at the Nirvana publisher’s table, which confronts the House of Books.
According to him, the requirement to submit a catalog of exposed books in advance “has been around for a very long time” and dates back to the time of the father of the i.
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