Banned in Lebanon; Sort Of

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Several weeks ago the Da Vinci Code was banned in Lebanon thanks to the supreme vigilance of the country's Catholic religious authorities, and Scott Wilson has written a piece on the unfortunate episode for the Washington Post.

There are paradoxes here: The church has been at the vanguard of efforts to expand Lebanese freedoms vis-a-vis Syria, so that depicting it as a pillar of reaction would not be correct. There is also the fact that (as Wilson observes) the book has been selling briskly for months and can still be ordered or bought under the counter (I did so just a few weeks ago). And finally, one might observe that book banning is quite rare in Lebanon.

Does that make the church's decision any more justifiable? Surely not. But we are talking about a country in the Middle East, a region where book banning is the norm rather than the exception, so that this particular exception says a lot about Lebanon's general ecumenism when it comes to allowing a relatively free flow of ideas, even ones as abysmally presented as those in Dan Brown's novel.

For what's its worth, years ago I got two bosses in trouble after I wrote about a banned book. Lawyers were called, and a trial was initiated. But did I bake the pair a cake with a saw in it so they could make a midnight getaway? Of course not. Endlessly delayed legal action is often a substitute for punishment. Over five years later their trial still lingers, until it will fall like a rotting pheasant; and while that's unacceptable in principle, I will see my maker before the two men see a prison cell.

Sure, that's not good enough for even an imperfectly liberal society; but the Lebanese story of DVC must be told with all the relevant caveats.

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  1. What exactly are you trying to spin here Michael Young?

  2. Good question, JB, I was wondering the same.

    Also, is it possible that they banned the book because it was just so bad? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Character development alone…

  3. willfellow,

    Its been a boon for the Louvre; visitorship has increased dramatically (I am told) as a result of the book. Apparently the book’s fans hunt out the “code” there.

  4. Er, wellfellow…. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Depicting the RC as a pillar of reaction in matters that impinge on the Jesus franchise should be obvious enough to generate no argument. The fact that this is moving into bookburning once removed should elicit more than a cluck-cluck.

  6. For what’s its worth, years ago I got two bosses in trouble after I wrote about a banned book.

    What is that book, Michael? Or, should you not speak of it even on this blog? Where did you write about the banned book? If you can’t answer out of consideration of your bosses situation, I understand.

  7. It seems that the main problem with the Da Vinci Code situation is, not that it was banned at the behest of the Catholic religious authorities but rather, that Lebanon’s government has the power to ban books.

  8. Is there an Arab nation that bans books less than Lebanon? Perhaps Dubai, of the UAE? Surely not the thug regimes of Egypt and Jordan which receive billions and a half billion dollars respectively, of our tax money each year.

  9. Rick Barton,

    UAE banned the Harry Potter books. The Palestinian Authority banned Edward Said’s books in the 1990s (Said was an outspoken critic of Arafat).

  10. It wasn’t even a good book. Read Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco and you will never read a Dan Brown book again.

  11. Foucault’s Pendulum has the virtue that it reveals the whole plot of the Da Vinci Code in a half a page. (Many years in advance, too – although since DVC basically just copied & pasted from holy grail, holy blood, I guess that’s no biggie).

  12. read foucault’s pendulum and then read illuminatus and *then* read holy blood holy grail.

    silly –> sillier –> silliest.

  13. dhex, I did and you are right.

  14. Jason Bourne,

    Do you know if Dubai went along with this banning? They’re the most liberty oriented of the Emirates-The “Hong Kong” of the Mideast.

  15. Rick Barton,

    I cannot say.

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