The prime ministerial board for the protection of children from harmful publications recently issued an analysis of Snuff, Palahniuk's latest title to be translated into Turkish, and informed the public prosecutor of Istanbul that it should be treated as an obscene novel rather than an artistic or scientific work.
The report summarises the plot thus: "A woman has sex with six hundred men converged in a room; numbered from 1 to 600 these men are invited to have intercourse with the female character. Their actions and personalities as well as their sexual expressions are described in such a way that it offends public conventions." The board, whose 10 members include a single woman, insists that Palahniuk "offends women in a way that counters Turkish customs and morals", and concludes: "It is acknowledged that a people in possession of their morals must choose to conceal their private parts and to have sexual intercourse privately. This fact applies to all times and places."
Only last month the same board issued a report about Burroughs's classic cut-up novel, The Soft Machine, and argued that the text lacked all cohesion and meaning. "The way the book deals with the coarse, sleazy, vulgar and weak aspects of humans will develop an attitude that allows the justification of criminal activities in the readers' minds," it said. If these cases go to trial, the publishers of Palahniuk (Ayrinti Yayinlari) and Burroughs (Sel Yayincilik) could face prison sentences or have to pay compensation for offending Turkish morality.
While courts and boards are critical of Burroughs's experimental fiction, the Turkish public seem to love it. The Club of Losers, a film about the life of Mete Avunduk, Burroughs's first Turkish publisher, proved popular, and demands are growing for an end to state interference. As one anonymous reader put it: "Our eyes should be allowed to see what is out there for all of us to see."
This article was published in The Guardian on June 11, 2011. You can read a facsimile PDF version of this article here.
And here Chuck Palahniuk responds to being one of Turkish state's 'suspect authors' in an Observer interview.