Ngugi has boycotted the Gothenburg Book Fair in Sweden on the basis of the invitation also extended to an extremist newspaper, Nya Tider. Being right-wing extremists, Nya Tider‘s editorial policies have seen a sequence of racist and xenophobic articles published, and the response of most of the attendees—more than 200 writers—has been boycott.
The Guardian reports that Ngugi, who initially planned to attend the book fair, wrote an email to his Swedish publishers, Modernista, stressing that he is “in solidarity with the writers withdrawing and of course with the concerns behind their withdrawal.” Modernista has since announced that “Ngugi wa Thiong’o has cancelled his attendance at the book fair in Gothenburg in the autumn.”
However, the book fair’s organisers have insisted that “open dialogue is the best way to beat forces involving intolerance, racism and xenophobia.” Nya Tider, they say, “had requested to attend the fair.”
The Gothenburg Book Fair, which will be held from 28 September to 1 October, is the biggest book fair in Scandinavia and “draws around 100,000 visitors each year.”
On 21 April, following the announcement that Nya Tider would be present at the book fair, “more than 200 Swedish authors signed an article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper saying they would boycott the book fair if Nya Tider is represented.”
Additionally, 12 European national institutes of culture – from Germany, France, Romania, Spain and Portugal among others – sent an email to organisers on Tuesday expressing their concern about Nya Tider’s attendance and urging it to bar the publication, which has received state press subsidies since 2012.
“The purpose of the email, for me, was to ask where to draw the line between freedom of speech and providing hatred with a free platform,” Laurent Clavel, head of the French Institute in Sweden, told public broadcaster SVT.
Fair organisers have, however, refused to budge on the issue.
We applaud Ngugi for continuing his leadership by example, for being able to draw that line.
By the way, does this remind anyone of the tussle about Nigeria’s Kaduna Book Festival?