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Publisher harassed over Turkish edition of Burroughs novel "The Soft Machine"

(Bianet/IFEX) - 27 April 2011 - The Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications demanded punishment for the book "The Soft Machine", written by US American writer William S. Burroughs and first published in 1961. The book, published in Turkey by the Sel Publishing Company, "does not comply with social moral standards", the board deplored.

The board was appointed in the context of an investigation into the contents of the novel launched by the Istanbul Public Chief Prosecution. "The Soft Machine" was translated by Suha Sertabiboglu and published in Turkey in January 2011. The decision of the Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications is based on several sentences and paragraphs of the book.

The Sel Publishing Company criticized the decision. "Eventually, this came true as well. The sublime judiciary of Turkey started to prosecute the morals of the Beat Generation," the company announced. Sel Publishing demanded an end to the legal action.

In the statement made to the Istanbul Public Chief Prosecution, the publishing house argued, "It is impossible to comprehend the insistence of imposing rules intended for 'children' to a book written for adults." In this way, dozens of reports could be written on various media organs and thousands of books, the company said.

The Prime Ministerial Board pointed to twenty different sentences and paragraphs of the 140-page book and came to the conclusion that the novel was "obscene". The publishing house assessed the decision as an "outrageous injustice done to a work of art".

Sel Publishing also criticized the structure and the function of the board: "This 'monstrous' situation evolves when a board that does not include any person of letters, any aesthete, critic or interpreter sets out to investigate [a book]."

"An official state board is not the yardstick of whether this is a work of literature and what impact it will have on the readers' treasury. Only the reader of the book is able to measure that," the company argued.

Sel Publishing underlined that Borroughs' novel, which was written in the cut-up and fold-in techniques, was one of the significant works of the "Beat Generation". "Not only does the board show ignorance, it also became ridiculous," the company commented on the board's findings.

The Prime Ministerial Board claimed that "from primitive life till today, in the whole world and in every society, the covering of the regions of sexual organs and the privacy of sexual intercourse became an indispensible rule."

"The weight of the book was directed to sexuality. The novel does not comply with the moral structure of the society and it harms the modesty of the people. It must be observed that it opposes the general morality", the board continued.

Publisher Irfan Sanci and interpreter Ismail Yerguz were standing trial on allegations of "publishing obscenity" on the grounds of three books published within the "Sexual Books" series of Sel Publishing. They were acquitted in accordance with the report of the Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children for Harmful Publications.

The board issued a report on the three works entitled "The exploits of a young Don Juan" by Guillaume Apollinaire, "Letters of a Well-Mannered and Knowledgeable Bourgeois Woman" by the French writer P.V. and Ben Mila's "The Fairy's Pendulum". The report concluded that the books are works of literature and would not constitute the basis for a conviction.

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