Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Faber attacks removal of Mistry book from Indian university

25.10.10 - Charlotte Williams - The Bookseller

Faber has joined with its author Rohinton Mistry to protest at the censorship of his novel Such a Long Journey at an Indian university, with Mistry accusing the university of almost institutionalising self-censorship.

Following complaints and protests from the student wing of the Shiv Sena, a far-right political party, the vice-chancellor of Mumbai University removed Such a Long Journey from the University's syllabus. Protests included copies being burned at the university gates. Despite counter protests from other students and faculty members, the vice-chancellor has upheld the decision, stating he followed correct procedures, with the decision taken by the outgoing Board of Studies.

Faber, which published the novel in 1990, said it "wholeheartedly" stood by the book on the basis of its "considerable literary achievements, and we support the author’s right to have written it. As publishers, we are strongly opposed to censorship in all its forms and firmly uphold the right to freedom of expression."

Stephen Page, publisher and c.e.o. of Faber, said: "Along with Rohinton Mistry's other publishers and writers' organisations around the world, we are very disturbed to hear about this summary removal of Such a Long Journey from the syllabus and appeal for the immediate reversal of this decision. Rohinton Mistry is a writer of the highest international significance and reputation, which only makes this action all the more indefensible."

Mistry, himself previously a student at the university, said: "A political party demanded an immediate change in syllabus, and Mumbai University provided deluxe service via express delivery, making the book disappear the next day. Mumbai University has come perilously close to institutionalizing the ugly notion of self-censorship. The vice-chancellor knows what he must do to remove the stain. "

The book follows character Gustad Noble as he struggles to provide for his family in 1970s Mumbai, and contains depictions of the Shiv Sena party. It was Mistry's debut novel and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1991.

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