It’s time to discuss what happened last week in the book world. It’s been a while since I last posted a News of the Week article, but I must admit that the news are not that exciting at the moment. Christmas is coming and most of the book industry actors mostly focus on this event, obviously. But I still managed to find three interesting pieces of news for you, in very different styles.
Let’s start with some incredibly sad, revolting but unfortunately unsurprising news. Last week, Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death by Saudi Arabian authorities. He had been sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes in May 2014 but following a retrial, he was finally sentenced to death last week. The reason: according to the country’s authorities, the poet renounced Islam (the charge is called ” apostasy” in the legal jargon). They base their conviction on poems from his collection Instructions Within, which is banned in Saudi Arabia, some of his Twitter posts and a “blasphemous” conversation he had in a coffee shop. This looks like strong arguments, doesn’t it? The poet denies the charge. He said to the Guardian last week that he was really “shocked” when he received the sentence but that he kind of expected it. He said to the newspaper: “They accused me [of] atheism and spreading some destructive thoughts into society” whereas his poetry collection is “just about me being [a] Palestinian refugee … about cultural and philosophical issues. But the religious extremists explained it as destructive ideas against God.” Once again, fanatism takes the form of misreading and interpretation to serve one’s own purposes. This is absolutely ridiculous (how can some people pretend that they understand the meaning of a poem, which is, by defnition, open to interpretations?) but not new. The good news, if we may find some good in these tragic news, is that a letter condemning this death sentence has been signed by poets from all around the world, including some influential poets such as Adonis and Carol Ann Duffy. The letter was published on Friday the 27th of November by PEN International and I truly hope that this appeal will influence the “judges”‘final decision – Ashraf Fayadh has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
Let’s jump from one subject to another with some funny news if you are a Winnie the Pooh‘s fan or ex-reader. If you’re a proper fan you probably already know that (but if you are not, then I hope this article will teach you something!) but AA Milne was inspired by a Canadian female black bear from the London Zoo to write Winnie the Pooh. His son, Christopher Robin, liked to go to the zoo and feed the bear – called, guess what, Winnie – with honey in the 1920’s. The bear died in 1934 but her skull was one of those conserved by the Royal College of Surgeons to understand animals’ anatomy. And this skull is now on display at the Hunterian Museum at The Royal College of Surgeons in London. The Royal College of Surgeons’ team hesitated a lot to display this skull, as it clearly washes away the image of Winnie the Pooh as a “cuddly fluffy bear” (that’s the least we can say!) but they believe that Winnie the Pooh would have been glad and curious “that the bear that had inspired him ended up here”.
Finally, let’s talk about book prizes again, but this time I’d like to tell you about a book prize I had never heard about and that looks truly amazing: the British Book Design and Production Awards. The prize was held on Thursday the 26th of November. The prize was created in 2009 in order to reward those that “continuously innovate, push the boundaries and embrace new technologies” and I believe that this is a great idea, as the British publishing is so inovative in terms of form (much more than in France, for instance, where books’ designs tend to be quite minimalist). Only in England have I seen so many beautiful books, inlcuding paperbacks. There are a lot of categories for this prize: Best Jacket/Cover Design, Best British Book, Children’s Trade, Photographic Books, Art / Architecture Monographs, Graphic novels (a new category for this year) and so on. The Holy Grail is of course the Book of the Year award, which was won this year by The Imaginary, a children’s book written by by A. F. Harold and illustrated by Emily Gravett, published by Bloomsbury. The book also won the Children’s Trade of this year. I have not had the chance to get this book into my hands yet (but I’ll definitely look for it during my next bookshop trip) but I previewed it online and it looks absolutely gorgeous, indeed. You can see it by yourself, as the picture of this article is the front cover of this beautiful book.
I hope you liked this article and I will see you next week!