AMMAN, Jordan (Reuters) — Jordan has banned Saddam Hussein’s new novel on the grounds the tale of an Arab tribesman who defeats a foreign intruder could hurt relations between the two countries, censors and the publisher said on Sunday.
“Get out of here, curse you!,” believed to have been penned by the ousted Iraqi leader before the U.S.-led war, was set to be released in Jordan and other Arab countries on Thursday by a Jordanian company with the permission of Saddam’s family.
“Publishing this novel will harm the Iraqi-Jordanian relationship and we are keen to have the best relations with Iraq. Jordan will not approve its publication. If they want to publish it they have to do it abroad,” Ahmad al-Qudah, head of the government’s Press and Publication Department, told Reuters.
The publisher said he had printed 10,000 copies for distribution in Jordan and other Arab countries, including Iraq, after winning initial permission. He said censors changed their mind after a local newspaper reported the upcoming launch.
“They gave us the okay from day one, but with all this publicity the censors called and told us to stop everything,” the publisher told Reuters, asking his name and his company not be printed for fear of government reprisals.
“I will change the cover and publish it abroad. This book is going to be published in the Arab world, I tell you that.”
Under Jordanian law, the department has authority to censor books published in Jordan, a close U.S. ally.
Relations between Jordan and Iraq were strained after reports that a Jordanian was behind a suicide bombing which killed 125 people south of Baghdad in February, prompting Iraqi protesters to break into the embassy. The two countries briefly recalled their envoys over the incident.
The publisher said Saddam’s daughter Raghad, who lives in Amman, had given him permission to publish the book, in which the daughter writes a dedication to her jailed father.
A copy of the book was stored in Baghdad’s Information Ministry ready for publication when the war broke out in 2003.
Saddam the author
Saddam, facing war crime charges, was credited with writing other books including “Zabiba and the King” — later made into a musical — and “Men and a City.”
Following his overthrow, however, Iraqi writers and intellectuals said Saddam did not write the books himself but got a committee to do it for him.
His latest book tells the story of Salem, a noble Arab tribesman who represents righteousness and Arab nationalism, and defeats his American and Jewish enemies. Illegal copies of the book have circulated in Amman.
The tale describes how Salem unites divided Arab tribes in Iraq to defeat Hisquel, a foreign intruder who represents evil.
A publisher for a London-based publishing house who was offered the rights to print an English translation by the Jordanian publisher said they turned it down.
“We read it but thought it had very little literary value,” Hesperus Press publisher Alessandro Gallenzi told Reuters from London.
“We publish classics. I’m afraid this one does not make it.”