Posted by: Kirsty | February 18, 2009

Margaret Atwood pulls out of Book Festival in Censorship Protest

This from BookBrunch:

It appears that Margaret Atwood has pulled out of the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature, launching in Dubai next week. The move follows reports that Geraldine Bedell was told that she could not launch her novel The Gulf Between Us at the festival owing to Bedell’s depiction of a gay sheikh. Atwood has written to Festival Director Isobel Abulhoul, who is also Director of Magrudy’s, the bookseller, expressing her regret at having to pull out at the last minute.

“I know you have put an enormous amount of work into it, I can imagine how many difficulties have had to be overcome, and I am very sad about the regrettable turn of events surrounding The Gulf Between Us. I was greatly looking forward to the Festival, and to the chance to meet readers there; but, as an International Vice President of PEN – an organization concerned with the censorship of writers – I cannot be part of the Festival this year. I wish you much success. Perhaps in the future I will be able to attend.”

Atwood’s decision came late last night UK time, and organisers in Dubai (which is five hours ahead of the UK) hope to be able to discuss the matter with the author, who is in Canada at present. This morning, Abulhoul told BookBrunch: “I do sympathise with her in her position as International Vice President of PEN, but I hope to be able to talk to her so that she understands the full story. I feel I have a right to put my side of the case.” Albulhoul said the Festival had received messages of continuing support from a number of participating authors.

I’m really pleased that Margaret Atwood – of whom I am a HUGE fan – has taken this stand against the censorship of literature. I’m also very keen to read Payback, her most recent book, which came out in October last year, based on a series of lectures about debt. How timely.



  1. Wow. What an amazing writer. I doubt this will change much, but it is nice to know that there are people still willing to stand up to their beliefs even though they stand to lose financial benefits.

  2. Margaret Atwood now regrets pulling out:

    […]If they did hype up the idea that Bedell’s book was “banned” Penguin – and Bedell – should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Self-righteously stirring up Islamophobia to sell books – twenty years after the Satanic Verses affair – is not very smart.[…]Arts & Ecology

  3. Thanks for that William – I hadn’t heard anything about it!


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