Poetry News

Turkish publisher of William Burroughs's The Soft Machine faces jail time and obscenity charges

By Harriet Staff

Irfan Sanci, a winner of the International Publishers Association's Freedom to Publish prize, is facing up to nine years of jail time in Turkey for publishing 2,500 copies of William Burroughs’s novel The Soft Machine, reports The Guardian. He and his translator are facing obscenity charges, some stating that the novel "hurts people's moral feelings."

Sanci has previously been sued, and later acquitted, for publishing books including Guillaume Apollinaire’s Adventures of the Young Don Juan (it seems Turkey has it out for Apollinaire, having violated a freedom of expression article last year by banning his erotic novel The Eleven Thousand Rods). Sanci’s publishing house, Sel Yayincilik, is demanding an end to the investigation, saying that, “It is clear and obvious that this case carries no weight or respectability outside of the borders of our country.” More on the case and the work itself from The Guardian:

Released two years after his best-known work Naked Lunch—which saw Burroughs himself prosecuted on grounds of obscenity in the US in 1962—The Soft Machine is the first book in the Beat writer's surreal "cut-up trilogy." Featuring scenes of drug addiction and homosexuality, The Soft Machine develops "attitudes that were permissive to crime by concentrating on the banal, vulgar and weak attributes of humanity," according to a report by the Turkish Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications, quoted in Turkish paper Hurriyet.

"Of course we are fighting it [and] we will win," said Sanci's daughter Bilge Sanci, executive editor at his publishing house. . . ."This book is a symbol of an author of the Beat generation."

"Turkish readers have the right to read books the rest of the world can read," she added. "And we haven't had any complaints from readers. The state's argument is about 'Turkish moral codes' but we are asking 'how can the state can dictate a person's morality?'"

Originally Published: May 17th, 2011