KOZHIKODE: Ayyamul Maaiz, the Arabic translation of Malayali author Benyamin’s best seller ‘Aadujeevitham’, has been banned in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The novel, based on the real life experience of a Keralite expatriate in Saudi Arabia, had fetched Benyamin several laurels including the Kerala Sahithya Academy award in 2009. The work was later translated into many Indian languages including English, Hindi and Tamil.
Suhail Wafy, the Arabic translator of the work, hailing from Adrissery in Malappuram, said that he was informed about the ban by Dr Nasser Al Shammary Ramadan, the managing Director of Aafaq Bookstore which published the book.
“He informed that Saudi Arabia had banned the novel even before the Riyadh book fair, where the book was released. The agent in UAE informed about the ban there,” said Wafy from Doha, Qatar. Shoppers in Dubai and Riyadh confirmed that the book was not available in any of theleading stores like Al Fuqran and Virgin.
This is not the first time that the Gulf countries have banned artworks that have Arabs and their traditions in negative shades. In 2011, a Malayalam film by Kamal ‘Gaddama’, narrating the hardships of a Malayali housemaid at the hands of an Arabic sponsor and finally her escape, was banned.
Benyamin, who is currently in New York for a private function, said that the ban was usual and expected. “I hope Bahrain is more tolerant of criticism and that the ban will affect the novel or its translation,” he said.
The novelist had completed 21 years in Bahrain before settling in Kerala and writing freely about the life he experienced.
Prior to the release of the Arabic version, Benyamin had said that it was a double delight for him as the book was reaching an audience about whom it was written. Wafy said that the ban will increase the demand for the book and that he is working on the second edition of the translation, which is expected to come out in two months.
“The work needs improvisation in spelling and other errors. Saudi Arabia had been tolerant to healthy criticism in literature and other art forms. I don’t understand why the government is being strict with this book,” Wafy said.
According to him, when Goat Days came out in English, Arab columnists wrote about it in a positive way.
“Salim Al Yami wrote in Alyoum daily from Saudi Arabia that ‘We Arabs in GCC countries especially in KSA have lost many good things that we were known for.
Now we see those expatriates who drink water from our well throwing stones in to it. Soit is high time that we held a self-appraisal’,” said Wafy, in an e-mail conversation, from Doha.