The Lit Review |28| Iran Overcoming Censorship

Overcoming the Restrictions of Censorship in the Online World

With Iran listed as one of the top 10 most censored countries in the world, authors and book publishers are coming up with daring and creative ways to challenge the restrictions that censorship places on book publishing. As it stands, The Iranian Ministry of Culture employs draconian tactics to weed out contentious words, phrases or paragraphs. ‘Anonymous censors’ evaluate books, some using the Ctrl+Alt function, to snip out words such as ‘kiss’, ‘dance’, ‘pork’ or ‘wine’.

Noogam, an online publishing group, helps authors to publish their work in e-book format. The group have published 25 titles since 2013, mostly by authors who are living in Iran and whose books cannot be published in print due to censorship. Authors are realising the potential for sharing stories online, and using the internet to dodge the red tape.

The Guardian has identified a number of individuals and publishers who are challenging the grip of censorship. Seyedmostafa Raziei, a young writer and translator, has had his work published in print in Iran but has also released titles as e-books, four of which are translations of Charles Bukowski’s poetry that would not have been approved by the Ministry. Raziei speaks on the issue, saying: ‘Censorship is futile and we are not in the 20th century any more: people have access to the internet and it has no boundaries.’
Editor of Noogam, Azadeh Iravani, explains how ‘it is not clear what, if any, penalties writers could face for online publishing deemed unacceptable’ and goes on to say ‘if you’re in Iran and your book is rejected or censored to the bone then you had to either bin it or put it in a shelf to gather dust. So online publishers like Noogam are giving people a new choice.’ I like these new choices, don’t you?


Was Charles Dickens a Thief?


As if the accusation of being an adulterer wasn’t enough, Charles Dickens may also have been a thief. Death and Mr Pickwick, the new faction (fact-based fiction) novel by Stephen Jarvis, accuses Dickens of nicking the idea for The Pickwick Papers from illustrator Robert Seymour, who committed suicide shortly after the apparent theft. Seemingly, illustrations by Seymour entitled The Laughable Misadventures of a Club of Newly Affluent Cockney Sportsmen were to be accompanied by 12,000 words from Dickens. A meeting had been arranged between Dickens, Seymour and Chapman & Hall who were set to publish the piece, but unfortunately Seymour passed away the week before the meeting went ahead. Jarvis suggests ‘it was Seymour… who invented Mr Pickwick and his Club of Cockney Sportsmen, and his illustrations were to take primacy over the accompanying text, until Dickens came along with his “pack of lies”.’ Louisa Price, curator at the Dickens Museum, defends Dickens’ integrity, pointing out that the museum has a permanent exhibition on copyright ‘which stands as testimony to Dickens’s role in establishing the protection of ideas for authors in the 19th century.’



National Flash Fiction Day

National Flash Fiction Day takes place on June 27th. This is the second year that Big Smoke Writing Factory has hosted the event and this year they present NewsFlash. They are looking for stories filled with the ‘powerful and intimate, brief and highly charged’: think you can do this in under 500 words? Then submit your flash fiction by 1st June to [email protected] As part of the same event, Big Smoke are also calling out for submissions to ‘The 101’. For this they are asking all Flash Fictioneers to squeeze a story into 101 words. This doesn’t leave much wiggle room, so get brainstorming and send something to the lovely Big Smoke folk by 8th June. The event on the 27th is free to attend and will take place in Arthur’s Pub in Dublin 8.


Go for a Walk and Write a Novel

The connection between walking and writing goes back as far as Ancient Greece, according to Rebecca Solnit’s book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. James Joyce penned one of the most famous literary walks in the world in Ulysses and more recently, psychogeography has become a popular area of study. Essentially, this is the phenomenon of having a good tramp around the urban space, taking in the sights and sounds and the people, and then writing about it. It’s as easy as that.


Not so Flyover State

Paddy Woodworth, writing for the Irish Times, describes his time spent writing in Iowa and the International Writing Programme, a spinoff of a ‘literary phenomenon’, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. The IWP came to be thanks to poet Paul Engle and his wife, the novelist Hualing Nieh, who suggested launching an international equivalent to the writer’s workshop, an initiative that has welcomed writers from starkly different worlds and perspectives, with diverse and exciting stories to share.
Woodworth describes his experience in the town meeting and learning about the lives of fellow writers, saying: ‘It was a very pleasing place to wander around; but it was neither so beautiful nor so stimulating as to provide a legitimate excuse to avoid writing for very long.’ The relationship between Ireland and the IWP has been published as an anthology entitled Town Stitched by River. A limited edition designed by Shari DeGraw in Iowa City, it will be available in Dublin public libraries shortly.


Unconventional Ghosts

Not that there is anything wrong with the generic transparent ghost, or with the kind that might help you make a vase out of clay, but Judith Claire Mitchell in the Guardian explores some interesting alternatives here. One favourite from the list is The Highboy, from collection of short stories by Alison Lurie, about a piece of furniture that haunts its old owner. Imagine being chased by a furious hoover? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Another interesting one is Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot by Robert Olen Butler. The story, despite its cryptic and ambiguous title, is actually about a jealous husband returning in the form of a parrot.


Oliver Jeffers Wins CBI Book of the Year Award

jeffers, books, illustrations


Oliver Jeffers has won the 25th CBI Book of the Year Award. He is the third author to win both the Book of the Year Award and the Children’s Choice award, bestowed upon him for his creative story Once Upon an Alphabet, which presents unique stories and drawings about the letters of the alphabet. Other winners were Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours, who took home the Eilís Dillon Award for a Debut Children’s Book, Áine Ní Ghlinn who took the Honour Award for Fiction and Gabriel Rosenstock and Brian Fitzgerald who were awarded the Judge’s Special Award for Haiku Más é do thoil é! Ciara Ní Bhroin, Chair of the judging panel, said: ‘The books being celebrated today highlight the excellence that children both at home and abroad can expect from Irish books. We are exceptionally lucky to be able to enjoy the skills and talents of Irish authors and illustrators writing for children.’


Some Other Excellent Illustrators



Because Oliver Jeffers is just so good at making pictures and because illustrations are lovely, here is a list of some other excellent well known illustrators from the Irish Times.

Kids Love Books

According to research from the UK’s National Literary Trust a record number of young people are reading every day. The fifth annual survey of 32,000 children and young people between 8 and 18 shows the frequency and enjoyment of reading is at its highest in nine years. It appears that girls trump boys when it comes to reading outside of class on a daily basis; almost half of girls are eager bookworms once school is out, compared with one third of boys.The survey also revealed that children aren’t conscious of their parents taking an interest in their reading. This highlights that more work needs to be done to involve parents in their children’s literacy development.


 The ‘Arab Booker’ Prize

The revolution in Tunisia that sparked the Arab Spring has also contributed to the revival of the Arab novel, according to this article. An academic and the president of Tunisia’s Manouba University, Shukri Mabkhout, was inspired by the changes that were happening around him in the aftermath of the revolution, and was moved to write his novel The Italian, the story of a young man navigating an increasingly tense Tunisia in 1987. On May 6, it won the International Prize for Arab Fiction. The prize, which has now become known as the ‘Arab Booker’, has brought literature onto an international stage. Mabkhout says: ‘It brings the Arab novel international exposure that was missing. The problem with the Arab novel has been publishing and distribution outside of this region. It will allow [us] to surpass the boundaries that were blocking Arab literature from the world.’

Maud Gonne’s Harp

The harp that WB Yeats’ unrequited love played as he recited his verse, initially valued at between €10,000-15,000, sold in Dublin last week for €37,000. Imagine being a fly on the wall as Maud Gonne played her harp and WB Yeats read his prose. Swoon doesn’t even begin to describe it.