Turkish official: Don't censor Steinbeck

Jan. 3, 2013 at 4:53 PM

ISTANBUL, Turkey, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Turkish students should be able to read John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" without any censorship, a cabinet minister said Thursday.

Ertugrul Gunay, minister of culture and tourism, was asked during a meeting with the Association of Diplomatic Correspondents about the Izmir Education Directorate to bowdlerize the Steinbeck novel, the newspaper Hurriyet reported.

"Those who try to modify Steinbeck in Turkey in 2012 cannot be considered human. Fortunately, this incident has no link with our ministry," Gunay said. "I hope Education Minister Omer Dincer will give a statement to enlighten both me and society as soon as possible."

Other books have been targeted. Gunay said the Education Ministry has removed what were considered offensive passages from works by Yunus Emre, a Turkish poet who lived in the 13th century.

In Istanbul, a mother complained when her child read "My Sweet Orange Tree," by Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos, a Brazilian writer, Today's Zaman reported. The story describes a boy's struggle with poverty and with his family.

Both "Of Mice and Men" and "My Sweet Orange Tree" are on a list published by the ministry of 100 books every child should read. The local education directorate has denied investigating the teacher who had her students read "My Sweet Orange Tree."

A teacher's union released a statement urging everyone to read both novels to protest a "censoring mentality."

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