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Top literary controversies of 2012

The year began with the ruckus over author Salman Rushdie's visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival. More controversies followed up soon after with Jad Adam's book release which traces the course of Gandhi's multi-faceted life, Girish Karnad's criticism on VS Naipaul and Tagore and Nobel Literature prize winner Mo Yan ridiculed by critics.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2012 16:52 IST

The year began with the ruckus created over author Salman Rushdie's visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival. More controversies followed up soon after with Jad Adam's book release which traces the course of Gandhi's multi-faceted life, Girish Karnad's criticism on VS Naipaul and Tagore and Nobel Literature prize winner Mo Yan ridiculed by critics.

Rushdie interrupted, again
Salman Rushdie had been the talk of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2012, where the author was pressured not to attend the five-day event. Panelists quoted him, attendees' gossiped over him and the media followed the story's every twist and turn.

The government of Jaipur barred him from speaking at the event by video link without prior approval. The Muslim groups had filed petitions against readings of his work at the gathering.

This followed news that four authors had been advised by lawyers to leave Jaipur immediately or risk arrest after reading aloud from Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses, which is banned in the country.

Rushdie was the object of a fatwa issued by Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini the year The Satanic Verses came out, calling for the author's death and forcing him into hiding for a decade.

Author Salman Rushdie poses for a photograph in central London, in this file photo. Reuters Photo

Mo Yan's Nobel acceptance speech draws ire from critics

There's been celebration in China, after the Nobel literature prize was awarded to Chinese author Mo Yan. This is the first Nobel given to a Chinese not in exile or prison, and the author's relationship with the Chinese government has sparked criticism.

Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan was assailed on Saturday in the Chinese dissident community as a "prostitute" following his Nobel lecture, but the speech was acclaimed in the communist state's media.

"In the last few days, he has defended the system of censorship... then in his lecture he talks about story telling -- to use a Chinese expression, he is like a prostitute insisting her services are clean," dissident poet Ye Du, a member of the non-government Independent Chinese Pen Center, told AFP.

Ye said Chinese intellectuals had hoped Mo would use the lecture to renew his call for the Chinese government to release jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, but instead he voiced support for China's system of state censorship.

Nobel Prize laureate Mo Yan - who has compared censorship to something as necessary as an airport security check and earned scorn from other writers for not being a staunch advocate of freedom of expression - came under criticism from Salman Rushdie, a Guardian report said.

Rushdie expressed frustration on Facebook that Yan would not support fellow writers and free speech activists in calling for the freedom of Liu Xiabo, the 2010 Nobel Peace laureate. More than 130 other Nobel laureates have signed the petition, including Desmond Tutu, Guardian's report said.

Girish Karnad criticises Naipaul
Playwright Girish Karnad used his slot at the Literature Live festival at the NCPA in Mumbai to question the organiser's decision to give writer VS Naipaul a lifetime achievement award earlier in the week.

Karnad spent more than half of his one-hour slot criticising the Nobel laureate for, among other things, totally missing the centrality of music in Indian history and culture, failing to understand the Islamic contribution to Indian music and architecture and making anti-Muslim statements.

"Naipaul's writings on modern India should be classified as fiction," Karnad said. "You'll realise that all the interviewees speak with the same wit and elegance, almost like Naipaul himself."

After his criticism of versus Naipaul, Karnad takes on Rabindranath Tagore when he said that Tagore was a great poet but a 'second-rate playwright'.

"Tagore was an influential thinker," he said. "His plays, however, are mediocre. We should treat and judge each genre separately."

Karnad's remarks evoked mostly angry and negative reactions on the social media

Playwright Girish Karnad during the Literature Live festival in Mumbai.

Jad Adams's Gandhi: Naked Ambition
The stature of Mahatma Gandhi is no less than a God in India and he is revered not less in other parts of the world too. So, whenever someone tries to explore the various facets of Gandhi's public and personal life, he is bound to draw attention.

In his latest book, Gandhi-Naked Ambition, Jad Adams explores the man behind Mahatma and his various experiments with celibacy. The book is, predictably, already creating a flutter in Europe and England.

The book's author, Jad Adams, even goes so far as to suggest that the Draconian practices instituted by this iconic figure in the ashrams he founded prompted the perverted 20th-century cults of Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana, and David Koresh in Waco, Texas - both of whom used their mesmeric sexual appeal to reduce their followers to almost slavish subjugation.

Taslima Nasreen accuses author Sunil Gangopadhyay of sexual harassment
Exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen accused noted author Sunil Gangopadhyay of sexually harassing her and other women. She also alleged that the President of the Sahitya Akademi was actively involved in banning her novel Dwikhandito and her "banishment" from West Bengal.

"Sunil Gangapadhyay is for book banning. He sexually harassed me and many other women. He is the President of the Sahitya Akademi. Shame shame!" Nasreen tweeted recently. When contacted, Gangopadhyay refused to comment on the accusations levelled by Nasreen.

Violent protests by Muslim groups in 2007 forced authorities to rush out the controversial writer from her home in Kolkata. The authorities put her in an undisclosed safe house in New Delhi where no visitors were allowed.

Planned Pussy Riot Book Creates Controversy
A new controversy has emerged involving Russian band Pussy Riot. A publisher here is planning to bring out a book billed as having been written by three members of the controversial female punk band.

However, it has emerged that it was using their names and blog posts without appropriate permissions. Earlier this week, three Russian online book stores announced pre-orders for the book Pussy Riot: Chto Eto Bylo (Pussy Riot: What Was It?).

The book is published by the Moscow-based publisher Algoritm under the names of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich.

Members of the all-girl punk band "Pussy Riot" Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (R), Maria Alyokhina (L) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (C). AFP Photo

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