The work of Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs is heading back to court, this time in Turkey. An Istanbul-based publisher and his translator face obscenity charges for publishing Burroughs' novel, The Soft Machine, which contains intense themes of drug use and homosexuality. This comes decades after a US court in Boston banned another of Burroughs' books, Naked Lunch, a decision that was reversed a few years later after testimony by fellow writers Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer.
Burroughs' raw depictions of heroin addiction and homosexuality are hard to digest for some in Turkey, whose mostly Muslim population of 74 million is steeped in old traditions. The publisher in question printed 2,500 copies of Burroughs' novel, meaning a tiny fraction of Turks would see a hard copy. The penalty for an obscenity conviction can be years in jail, though the sentence is usually a fine. Meanwhile, protesters in Turkish cities demonstrated yesterday against government plans to implement Internet content filters, saying the new system amounted to more censorship in an already heavy-handed effort to control information.