Banned Books Week: Anthony Fleischer on Chilembwe of the Lake

11 Oct 2011
Chilembwe of the Lake

To celebrate Banned Books Week, taking place from September 24 to October 1, we invited PEN Members to recommend banned or challenged books that have influenced them as writers and readers. Below, Anthony Fleischer, president of South African PEN, discusses how his own banned book brought him to the organization.

My first novel was written under the pen name Hans Hofmeyer. It was entitled The Skin is Deep and published by Secker & Warburg of London in 1958. The book was well reviewed by The Times Literary Supplement and others, but was banned by the apartheid government when it reached South Africa. I then joined South African PEN to support its charter and its free expression principles.

I was inordinately upset by that ban. How can any government anywhere tell its citizens what they might or might not read? After Mandela was released, I published in the UK and locally under my own name. And, now, in reaction to the new threats of official censorship, I have revisited my first book and have published it on Kindle as an e-book. The title is now Chilembwe of the Lake and his lake was Lake Malawi. In the new democracies of the world, no one should be a foreigner.

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