Monday, 30 January 2012

Olives Is Blocked In Jordan

    ‘The Dead Sea’s some place. You’ll like it. Who you are working with at the Ministry?’
    ‘Aisha Dajani? She works with the secretary general there, Emad Kawar.’
    ‘Yah, I’ve heard of her. Her family owns this place, you know?’
    I soon realised Lars had a massive network of friends and followers and was totally plugged in to the beating heart of Amman’s social scene. ‘Yes, she found it for me.’
    Lars nodded sagely. ‘Makes sense. It’s a big family, spread across this whole area. They’re Palestinian. A lot of money. She’s the pretty one? Drives a Lexus?’
    I shrugged. ‘I guess so.’
    He raised his can, his index finger pointed at me. ‘That’s big trouble. Big family, big money. I tell you, Arab men are crazy jealous. Stay away.’
    Olives - Page 37

I've just had the news. Olives - A Violent Romance won't be going on sale in Jordan. The first distribution company that turned it down didn't give a hard reason, just a lot of corporate weasel words about them being 'currently overloaded with existing distribution projects'.

As someone who writes corporate weasel words, I can spot 'em a mile off. And these said to me, 'Your book's as hot as a Fukushima fuel rod and we're not touching it.'

The second distributor has just confirmed that Olives is to, at least in Jordan, be a victim of some of the very attitudes and issues it touches upon.

" would not go through censorship as it mentions, although in fiction, the family name Dajani which is an existing family and all over the Middle East. they are of Jeruslamite origin, and quite influential. I therefore have to decline..." 

Imagine any book in the UK being blocked from distribution because the main character is called Smith or perhaps Rothermere. Or Rothschild. Imagine not being able to separate truth from fiction.

Please note I'm not saying 'banned' because it never got as far as the censor. The booksellers have blocked it out of fear that someone from a big family will take umbrage from a work of fiction using the family's name.

So I'm sorry, Jordan, but you'll just have to order your copies of Olives from The Book Depository (the link's on the right next to the links for Kindle, Nook et al). The good news is it'll ship within 72 hours, shipping is free and the book'll cost you just the same as buying it from a local bookshop.
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  1. Ouch, sorry to hear that.
    At least there are other ways of buying it.

  2. As an afterthought: did you expect any kind of censorship at all when you wrote the book?

  3. The book was originally written for a UK audience, Devina, so it never even entered my mind. I had thought some of Lynch's fruiter language would cause raised eyebrows in the UAE, but they didn't. I hadn't expected censorship in Jordan, no. Perhaps naively...

  4. "There are other ways of buying it"

    That's the mad thing, isn't it? As if you can censor stuff like this in today's world...

  5. Hi Alexander, so is the book officially blocked or the distributor determined it to be too hot? I have a friend in the publications department and he said they did not block this book. So it seems to me it is the distributor and not the government.

  6. Anonymous, I believe Alexander stated that in his original post: "Please note I'm not saying 'banned' because it never got as far as the censor. The booksellers have blocked it out of fear..." The mere fact that a government has a 'publications department' that can block a book is rather idiotic, if you ask me. Not that anyone asked me.

  7. There is only one problem with your book Alex.... you know what it is .. right? Arab chic getting banged by a Brit. You shoulda seen that coming. Here is how to fix it.. Make the banger Arab Male, and the bangee British female and you got yourself a hot cake.

  8. interesting. as someone who comes from a much larger family than the dajanis, i'd be interested in reading and reviewing this book alexander!

  9. it's available everywhere.. except with a jordanian based distributor. :-)

  10. To be clear. The 'official' Jordanian censor has not, to my knowledge, banned this book. It hasn't been submitted for censorship because the two disties I have dealt with have either refused the book for unspecified (IMHO spurious) 'commercial' reasons or for stated reasons to do with the Dajani family's provenance.

    Unless someone in Jordan grows (IMHO, relatively small) balls, it'll never get to the censor.

    So it's 'blocked' not 'banned'.

    But, surely, the fear here speaks more volumes than a government ban!!!

  11. Devina - having slept on it, I did originally consider the family name (it was a very long time ago!) and one reason I plumped for Dajani is that it's a big Palestinian name but very distributed around the region, rather than being a tribal name from, say, Kerak.

    1. The Dajani family is a unique and distinguished family that has its origins for over a millennium, in Jerusalem, yet due to the Nakba and subsequent Diaspora, it finds itself spread in may countries all over the world.
      We try our best as Dajanis to uphold the virtues that have accompanied our family name over the centuries.

      Your book proposes that our distinguished family name may be conveniently used as a cover for someone who has interests in pursuing covert activities. Please bear in mind that although a large family, our name is not a common name, nor an anonymous name like Smith.... but that of a very proud family and we are distressed to find it devalued with this kind of association with illegal activities.

      We cannot afford to have our name in this kind of association, whether the book is fictional or not. As a person experienced in the Middle East, you must know how difficult it is to navigate and this book just adds fuel to the fire.

      It would have beed entirely feasible for you as an author to have contrived / fabricated a fictional name which does not infringe or violate our good family's history and reputation and do not believe that you have exercised good judgement in this choice.

      We hope that steps will be taken to rectify this.

  12. Yup, it's hard to censor something in today's digital world, when you can buy the book on the Kindle, iBooks...anything. Or just get it delivered from Amazon or any number of online book retailers.
    So I'm guessing, like you said, this is more out of fear of repercussions, that is the distributors being afraid of being seen as "supporting" the book (if that makes sense).
    Like you say in your book: wasta.
    With the name consideration, unless you made up a name though, naturally it's going to be the same last name as some family or the other. It's up to people to separate truth from fiction.
    But I reiterate: it's good it's a digital world. That is something.

    1. The issue seems to be one of "Defamation of Character" rather than "Freedom of the Press".

      The author could have easily changed several letters and invented a plausible pseudonym for his fiction.

  13. Defamation?

    This is, clearly, fiction. There is no intent to defame, no possible linkage to any person, alive or dead, who shares any aspect of these fictional characters' existences. There is no Aisha Dajani who smokes, drives a Lexus, lives in Abdoun, has inky fingers and who lost her father in Gaza, her brother in the West Bank and has uncles called Ibrahim and Hamad. Oh, and who has a mole high on her left breast.

    If there is, well, let's face it - I'm in trouble.

    But there isn't - because this is fiction.

  14. Sorry. That should have been right breast.

  15. This Nadia Dajani, so full of herself and commenting above, is nothing but a cheap slut, sleeping around with married western men... Funny she should even go to the extend as to mention "pride and honor"; black sheep in her family they should be ashamed of...
    Definitely buying a book!