Turkish publisher Irfan Sanci is facing jail for publishing William Borroughs. He has already been prosecuted for publishing Guillaume Appollinaire (no, truly). Now he is being prosecuted because the ‘Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications’ has condemned Burroughs’ The Soft Machine as a book that ‘lacks narrative unity’, being ‘written in an arbitrary fashion devoid of cohesion.’
These seem to me to be literary judgements, and I’m not at all clear from the AP report what makes the Board qualified to pronounce. Even if it were qualified, it’s the linkage it is making that is surprising. Apparently, according to the Board, the book being written in this incoherent style makes Burroughs’ depiction of ‘coarse, sleazy, vulgar and weak aspects of humans’ create ‘an attitude that allows the justification of criminal activities in the readers’ minds’.
That’s giving what it has already announced by fiat to be bad writing a hell of a lot of power. Might it possibly be the case, therefore, that the writing isn’t bad at all? Or is the Board suggesting that only bad writing has this power, and therefore must be outlawed?
It is no joke for Irfan Sanci, but one is led by this to ask, when is the Turkish government going to outlaw woolly thinking? Because it would appear to me from their statement that the members of the ‘Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications’ would all be in jail if that were the case.