Stars pull out of Sri Lanka book fair under pressure

JAIPUR, January 21, 2011 (AFP) – Nobel-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk and fellow writer Kiran Desai have pulled out of Sri Lanka’s main literary festival, Pamuk’s publisher said on Friday, following pressure from press freedom groups. Reporters Without Borders and a Sri Lankan rights group had targeted foreign writers in a campaign that called on them to boycott the Galle Literary Festival because of restrictions on free speech in Sri Lanka.

The campaign said that attending the event later this month would “give legitimacy to the Sri Lankan government’s suppression of free speech.”

Pamuk and his partner Kiran Desai, a Booker Prize-winning author, are attending the Jaipur Literary Festival in northern India and had planned to travel on to Sri Lanka for the Galle event that starts on January 26.

“They won’t be attending the Galle festival,” Hemali Sodhi from Pamuk’s publisher in India, Penguin, told AFP by telephone. “They won’t be commenting on this any further.”

Pamuk had declined to take questions from journalists while speaking at an event in Jaipur earlier in the day.

The Galle boycott campaign has been backed by Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Ken Loach, Antony Loewenstein and Tariq Ali.

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