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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?

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017), for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. His conversations appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. Born in Aba, he combined history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

One Response to “Ngugi Boycotts Swedish Book Fair Due to Presence of Extremist Newspaper” Subscribe

  1. amy 2017/07/06 at 09:14 #

    The tussle wit kaduna, for me, is different.
    I personally don’t understand the boycott. The left always says diverse voices but only mean agree with “my opinion” of diversity and what is right. its not nya tider that is organising the fair. As much as I hate xenophobia and racism, in this particular situation I don’t see why they should boycott.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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