Steinbeck censor bid stirs uproar

Steinbeck censor bid stirs uproar

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Steinbeck censor bid stirs uproar

The İzmir Education Directorate’s books commission seek to ban certain parts of Steinback’s famous novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ citing its ‘vulgar content.’ AA photos

Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay has expressed incredulity at the İzmir Education Directorate books commission’s quest to ban certain parts of John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men” due to “immoral” passages, questioning their overall humanity.

“In 2012, those who attempted to [ban] Steinbeck’s or Yunus Emre’s place cannot be counted as human beings,” Günay said yesterday during a meeting with the Diplomacy Correspondents Association.

Steinbeck’s famous novel “Of Mice and Men” and “My Sweet Orange Tree” by Brazilian writer Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos, which are on a government list of books every child should read, are now part of a censorship debate in Turkey.

The İzmir Education Directorate’s books commission, which was set up to review curricula and school course books, is seeking to ban certain parts of “Of Mice and Men,” citing its “vulgar content.” The commission decided that the book was “unsuitable for educational use.”

In a similar case, Istanbul’s Bahçelievler Provincial Education Directorate launched an investigation into a Turkish-language arts teacher who made her students read “My Sweet Orange Tree” after a parental complaint.

Günay likened the attempt to censor Steinbeck to the previous censorship of a verse written by Turkish poet and Sufi mystic Yunus Emre.

 “I asked the education minister issue about Yunus Emre. He confirmed that some parts of his poem were omitted, but it was not done deliberately,” he said.

“Nobody can change or rearrange the words of Yunus Emre according to himself,” the minister said, adding that people should continue to read the text as they had.

A schoolbook publisher recently omitted parts of Yunus Emre’s quatrains in which the poet discusses “heaven” and “houris” and expresses his love for God by saying he desires only God, neither heaven nor houris.

‘Necessary gains already satisfied’

The Education and Training Committee (Talim ve Terbiye Kurulu) of the Turkish Education Ministry was revealed to have approved the expurgated version of the chant because the “necessary gains expected from the poem are already satisfied in the deficient version,” daily Radikal reported last month.

In further comments, Günay said Turkey’s attempt to repatriate historical artifacts had disturbed Europe. “They are afraid that these policies will establish [a precedent].”

The minister said some Turkish ambassadors abroad, whom he did not name, had responded reluctantly to his ministry’s call for the return of historical artifacts in those countries. “One of them in Germany even wrote me a letter asking to stop the issue, pointing at Turkey’s previous failed initiatives.” Referring to recent debates over the historical accuracy of the hit TV series “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (The Magnificent Century), the minister said he was dissatisfied with its script, noting that, in his view, the story of Süleyman the Magnificet and Hürrem Sultan was an issue for an international movie due to its unique tragedy.