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Atwood spurns Dubai

After agreeing to attend the Dubai-based Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature, Margaret Atwood has opted to stay home instead. Not only that, she won’t even be attending by LongPen. Seems she’s decided to make a statement on behalf of a gay-themed book called The Gulf Between Us, by Geraldine Bedell. According to The Bookseller:

Penguin, which had planned to launch Geraldine Bedell’s The Gulf Between Us at the event, was informed in September it could not launch the book at the fair, which is due to open on 26th February, because it was anticipated that the book would not get past the censor.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called the decision “deeply regrettable”, while Bedell herself has now written a blog for the Guardian criticising the decision and calling the fair’s objections “weird-sounding”.

In a statement issued yesterday (17th February) Isobel Abulhoul, director of the fair, said: “I knew that her work could offend certain cultural sensitivities. I did not believe that it was in the festival’s long term interests to acquiesce to her publisher’s request to launch the book at the first festival of this nature in the Middle East.”