July 6, 2011

Going to the mat for Burroughs in Turkey


A Guardian (UK) story reports that Turkish publisher, Sel Yayincilik, faces obscenity charges for its Turkish-language publication of the William S. Burroughs novel The Soft Machine, which was originally published in the U.S. in 1961, and in a significantly revised edition in 1966.

The publisher, Irfan Sanci, is a recipient of the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish prize, and “has previously been sued under Article 226 of the Turkish penal code, for publishing books including Guillaume Apollinaire‘s Adventures of the Young Don Juan, but was acquitted in December. He and his translator are now facing further obscenity charges for publishing 2,500 copies of a Turkish edition of the Burroughs novel in January, which could mean a jail sentence of up to nine years,” according to the Guardian.

“The International Publishers Association called the situation ‘mind-blowing and disappointing’ and called for Sanci and his translator’s immediate acquittal,” the Guardian report continued, “the obscenity charges violate Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European convention on human rights. Last year Turkey was found guilty of violating the article by the European court of human rights when it banned Apollinaire’s erotic novel The Eleven Thousand Rods.”

The Turkish Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications claims the novel, which treats of homosexuality and drug addiction, is  “incompliance with moral norms” and “hurting people’s moral feelings”. According to the Guardian, Sanci’s daughter Bilge Sanci, executive editor at his publishing house, said, “Of course we are fighting it [and] we will win….Turkish readers have the right to read books the rest of the world can read.”



Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.