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Just a few weeks after protesters toppled dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, books that were outlawed under the former regimes are now back on bookshelves in both countries, according to new reports.
La régente de Carthage is a book by two French authors that directly attacks Leila Ben Ali, wife of deposed Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Also on sale are La Trace et l’Heritage, a biographical study of Habib Bourguiba, the president Ben Ali overthrew in 1987, and the works of Toaufik Ben Brik, a Tunisian journalist who long criticized the Ben Ali presidency.
Nearby, in Egypt, books hidden away for decades are now dispersed freely on street corners:
Salwa Gaspard of joint English/Arabic language publisher Saqi Books said accounts in the Arabic press told of books that had been hidden for years in private basements now once more seeing the light of day.
Alexis Krikorian, director of the Freedom to Publish programme at the IPA, said the emergence of these and other formerly banned books within Tunisia was “very good news”. Whether censorship still existed with regard to new titles was a separate issue, he added, but it was likely that the legal submission procedure, which under the old regime had been misused to block books at their printers, “no longer applies”.
Anecdotal reports are also emerging of once suppressed titles appearing for impromptu sale on street corners and newspaper kiosks across Egypt. Salwa Gaspard of joint English/Arabic language publisher Saqi Books said accounts in the Arabic press told of books that had been hidden for years in private basements now once more seeing the light of day.
Cairo is also to hold a book fair in Tahrir Square – the focus for protests against former president Hosni Mubarak – at the end of March, according to Trevor Naylor of the American University of Cairo Press bookshop, which is based in the square. Naylor told the Bookseller that the event had been planned in the wake of the cancelled Cairo Book Fair, which was abandoned in January in the face of growing political unrest.
“Everyone around the globe now associates Tahrir Square with freedom and revolution,” Naylor said. “We really wanted to do something that celebrates what happened here, and this seems like a great way to do it.”