Atwood Reverses Decision, Will Appear at Festival to Discuss Censorship


After bowing out of the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature, author Margaret Atwood announced last Friday that she will be appearing at the event, via video. Atwood, who will speak on a panel about censorship, initially declined participation in response to news that British novelist Geraldine Bedell’s new book had been banned from the festival.

While festival organizers declined to include Bedell’s novel, The Gulf Between Us, which features a gay character, International PEN, of which Atwood is vice president, pointed out in a statement that neither Bedell nor her book had been banned from the United Arab Emirates, as some reports initially indicated.

"Books are seriously 'banned' and 'censored' around the world and people have been imprisoned, murdered, and executed for what they've written," Atwood wrote in a statement, published last Saturday in the Guardian, in which she questioned her response to the festival’s exclusion of the book. "A loose use of these terms is not helpful."

"It is the role of International PEN not only to highlight censorship wherever it exists but, where differences arise, to facilitate dialogue to enable understanding," said Caroline McCormick, director of International PEN, in a statement. "This is the function which we will be undertaking at the festival." The censorship panel, to which all festival authors have been invited to take part, will be presented on February 28.