Atwood pulls out of Dubai literary festival in censorship protest

Book banned due to its discussion of Islam and its focus on the Iraq war

Margaret Atwood has pulled out of the inaugural Emirates Airline international festival of literature in the wake of a novel being blacklisted for potential offence to “cultural sensitivities.” Other authors due to appear at the festival, including bestselling children’s authors Anthony Horowitz and Lauren Child, are now also reconsidering whether to attend. Atwood, a vice president of writers’ group International Pen, has written to the festival’s director about the “regrettable turn of events” surrounding Geraldine Bedell’s 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,” she wrote in a letter posted on her official site. Bedell’s book is a romantic comedy set in a fictional Gulf emirate, and was due to receive its official launch during the festival. According to Bedell, the organisers of the festival were initially keen to feature it, but then produced a list of reasons why they couldn’t launch it there, citing its Gulf setting, its discussion of Islam and its focus on the Iraq war, as well as the fact that a minor character is a gay sheikh with an English boyfriend.