Controversy, Then Not, Then More Controversy, Then Not at Inaugural Dubai Lit Fest

The first-ever Dubai lit fest, which finishes up today, opened to controversy when a The Gulf Between Us, which features a gay sheik, by brit Geraldine Bedell was rejected from the festival line-up. The Emirates Airlines International Festival of Literature officially insists it's not a matter of censorship at all, but of simply a book out-of-synch with the event. "This has nothing to do with censorship... We simply found after reading the book upon the request of its publisher, Penguin, that it is not suitable for the festival," said festival director Isobel Abulhoul.

Author Margaret Atwood (veep of PEN, by the way, the literary anti-censorship organization), pulled out of the festival immediately, but wrote this weekend in the London Guardian that she regretted her move, which was admittedly based on the belief Bedell's book was banned. So, now Atwood is participating in the festival via video conference, at, of course, a last-minute discussion panel about censorship.