Readersforum's Blog

April 5, 2012

Günter Grass launches poetry attack on Israel

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 11:59 am

Günter Grass: poem criticises Israel's 'claim to the right of first strike' against Iran. Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

German Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass says Israel is a threat to world peace in his poem What Must Be Said.

German Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass labelled Israel a threat to “already fragile world peace” in a poem published on Wednesday that drew sharp rebukes at home and from Israel.

In the poem, titled What Must be Said, published in German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Italy’s La Repubblica among others, Grass criticises what he describes as western hypocrisy over Israel’s own suspected nuclear programme amid speculation it might engage in military action against Iran to stop it building an atomic bomb.

The 84-year-old Grass said he had been prompted to put pen to paper by Berlin’s recent decision to sell Israel a submarine able to “send all-destroying warheads where the existence of a single nuclear bomb is unproven”.

“The nuclear power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace,” he wrote. His poem specifically criticises Israel’s “claim to the right of a first strike” against Iran.

Grass also called for “unhindered and permanent control of Israel’s nuclear capability and Iran’s atomic facilities through an international body”.

Grass did not mention calls for the destruction of Israel that have been made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but obliquely referred to the Iranian people being “subjugated by a loudmouth”.

Israel is widely believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons but has never admitted it, pursuing instead an official policy of “ambiguity” to deter potential attackers.

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November 26, 2011

A Corner of American Outreach Has Few Visitors, and Plenty of Dust

Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

Kamal Yunis, a research librarian at Baghdad University, oversees the quiet American Corner.

 In a nook of the library at Baghdad University, sturdy histories of the American Revolution and the Vietnam War line up next to Alexis de Tocqueville and John Updike. Paperbacks from Tom Clancy and Michael Connelly, even Judy Blume, dangle guilty pleasures. And, as if to close the loop on Americana, baseball makes a token appearance with a copy of “Farm Team,” a novel about a boy who builds a ball field in a cow pasture.

Yet, the readers never come.

On a recent morning, this section was empty, as it is most days. As far as Kamal Yunis, a research librarian who oversees what is formally called the American Corner, can tell, no student has ever opened one of the books. The collection was assembled by the American Embassy here and is an example, writ small, of the sort of cultural programs — “soft power,” in the diplomatic nomenclature — that the State Department will emphasize after the last troops leave. Even in this arena of cultural and educational links, United States diplomats say they hope to gain leverage over Iran — whose political influence here is vast and likely to grow after the departure of the American military — by steering more students and academics toward American ideas and, hopefully, more opportunities to study in the United States.

Like nearly every American pursuit here, a battle of ideas will be difficult to win given deep suspicions toward the United States and the shattered civil society that is only slowly re-emerging. Iraq’s losses from war, tyranny and sanctions can be tabulated in physical terms, in lives and property, and in soulful shades, in identity and peace of mind. Less momentously, on the same ledger, sit the cultural losses of reading and academic striving.

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July 24, 2011

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:51 am

Iran’s supreme leader attacks ‘harmful’ books

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks out against books with ‘political hidden motives’, prompting criticism from former culture minister.

By Saeed Kamali Dehghan


Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader. Photograph: EPA

Iran’s former culture minister, Ataollah Mohajerani, has criticised the country’s supreme leader for restricting access to literature after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly attacked “harmful books” and likened them to “poisonous” drugs.

In a meeting with librarians and officials from Iran’s book industry on Wednesday, Khamenei spoke out against books “with a cultural appe arance but with specific political hidden motives.

“Not all books are necessarily good and not all of them are unharmful, some books are harmful,” he said, according to his official website,

Mohajerani who was culture minister until 2000 under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, said the ayatollah was worried about “literary, philosophical and social” books that might raise questions about his legitimacy as the supreme leader. “I think that he is very much concerned about books that can either implicitly or explicitly target his position as the supreme leader and also his legitimacy.”

He had fallen foul of the ayatollah when he was at the ministry as he favoured greater cultural openness and removed thousands of titles from the lists of banned books. Some analysts believe his lack of deference to the hardline ayatollah was another reason he came under attack from conservative clerics which finally forced him to resign. Numerous publications were closed down after he went. He currently lives in exile in London.

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July 17, 2011

The Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award 2010/2011 Shortlist

The 2010/2011 Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award shortlist has been announced.

The award, which is accompanied by a cheque for R10 000, recognises the home-grown title that SA booksellers large and small took the most pleasure – and profit – in reading and selling last year.

Books LIVE is delighted to see three of our members on the list: Alex Smith, Cynthia Jele and Lauren Beukes are joined by Alexander Parker, Zapiro, Derryn Campbell and Evita Bezuidenhout. Jele and Beukes, of course, have already had, oh, a smidgen of success with their 2010 novels this year (cf the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, M Net Film Award and a little something-something called the Arthur C Clarke Award).

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50 People Who Stuffed Up South AfricaAwesome South AfricaEvita's Kossie SikelelaFour Drunk BeautiesHappiness is a Four-Letter WordZoo City (SA edition)

February 23, 2011

IPA concerned about publisher “blacklist” in Iran

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:48 am

Lisa Campbell

The International Publishers Association is urgently trying to locate an Iranian publisher on women’s issues after she was named in an alleged blacklist of Iranian publishers.

The blacklist, reportedly circulated by a chapter of Iran’s Basij militia at Khajeh Nasir University, contains names of Iranian publishers it thinks are displaying “evidence of soft overthrow and velvet revolution”.         

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