Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Libro Non Grata

Peasant family of Ramallah. Bauren-familie von...
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As I shared over on the Olives blog last night my debut novel, Olives - A Violent Romance, is not to be available on sale in Jordanian bookshops after distributors have declined to stock it.

The reason for their reticence appears to be my choice of name for the female character in the book, Aisha Dajani. The name is a common one all over the Levant, and the name of a large family originally from Jerusalem. The name was appropriate to the character for that precise reason, given the book itself is set in Jordan and deals with a Palestinian family and their history.

I've been shut down before, in a former life as a publisher of magazines (for a negative review of a computer in a PC magazine. The computer company CEO turned out to have 'wasta'). I've spent countless hours in various Ministries of Information (before they were all given more 'user friendly' names). I've been passed by numerous censors in one form or another but I have never actually been censored, in print or blog. I learned early on how to do that for myself. This would appear to be one instance where I've got it wrong.

As Kamal BinMugahid points out in his thought-provoking post today, honour is paramount in the Arab World. A family's good name is taken very seriously indeed, sometimes to the point where the mania spills out into murder, the so-called honour killings which tarnish the whole Arab World's good name to save the 'good name' of single families.

I have seen my work rejected by many people over the years, for a variety of reasons. But never before has someone knocked me back because of fear. Fear of the reaction of people with the same family name to a character in a work of fiction.

Olives is, indeed, libro non grata in Jordan...

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