The Book Censor's Library (Paperback)

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The Book Censor's Library By Bothayna Al-Essa, Ranya Abdelrahman (Translator), Sawad Hussain (Translator) Cover Image
By Bothayna Al-Essa, Ranya Abdelrahman (Translator), Sawad Hussain (Translator)
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Staff Reviews

Throw in some 1984, add a dash of Fahrenheit 451, and put in a whole bunch of original Big Brother content that has flowed from Bothayna Al-Essa's imagination, and you have the magic that is The Book Censor's Library. The unnamed protagonist works as a book censor at a bureau that attempts to kill all creativeness and imagination in the books that get published. Obviously, this is only one aspect of a society where the ruling elite attempt to suppress the population. When he is charged with reading and listing all the wrongs in a newly translated copy of Zorba the Greek, he starts to awaken to the power and beauty of reading actual books. He falls down the rabbit hole and starts helping to smuggle books doomed to be burned to safety. His family suffers for his choices, even though his daughter has needed these stories and her imagination to be used. A surprising, haunting, twisty ending left me flabbergasted and wanting the story to continue.

— Jason Kennedy


A perilous and fantastical satire of banned books, secret archives, and the looming eye of an all-powerful government.

The new book censor hasn't slept soundly in weeks. By day he combs through manuscripts at a government office, looking for anything that would make a book unfit to publish--allusions to queerness, unapproved religions, any mention of life before the Revolution. By night the characters of literary classics crowd his dreams, and pilfered novels pile up in the house he shares with his wife and daughter. As the siren song of forbidden reading continues to beckon, he descends into a netherworld of resistance fighters, undercover booksellers, and outlaw librarians trying to save their history and culture.

Reckoning with the global threat to free speech and the bleak future it all but guarantees, Bothayna Al-Essa marries the steely dystopia of Orwell's 1984 with the madcap absurdity of Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, resulting in a dreadful twist worthy of Kafka. The Book Censor's Library is a warning call and a love letter to stories and the delicious act of losing oneself in them.

About the Author

Bothayna Al-Essa is the bestselling Kuwaiti author of nearly a dozen novels and additional children's books. She is also the founder of Takween, a bookshop and publisher of critically acclaimed works. Her most recent book, The Book Censor's Library, won the Sharjah Award for Creativity in the novel category in 2021 and is her third novel to appear in English, after Lost in Mecca and All That I Want to Forget. Al-Essa was author-in-residence at the British Centre for Literary Translation for the summer of 2023, and the recipient of Kuwait's Nation Encouragement Award for her fiction in 2003 and 2012. She has written books on writing and led writing workshops throughout the Arab world.Sawad Hussain is a translator from Arabic whose work has been recognised by English PEN, the Anglo-Omani Society and the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, among others. She is a judge for the Palestine Book Awards and the 2023 National Translation Award. She has run translation workshops under the auspices of Shadow Heroes, Africa Writes, Shubbak Festival, the Yiddish Book Center, the British Library, and the National Centre for Writing. Her most recent translations include Black Foam by Haji Jaber (AmazonCrossing) and What Have You Left Behind by Bushra al-Maqtari (Fitzcarraldo Editions). She was selected to be the Princeton Translator in Residence in 2025. Her website is Abdelrahman is a translator of Arabic literature into English. After working for more than sixteen years in the information technology industry, she changed careers and joined the Emirates Literature Foundation to pursue her interest in books and promoting reading. She discovered her passion for translation during her time at the Foundation, where she worked as Programme Manager, and later Head of Education and Publishing. Abdelrahman has published translations in ArabLit Quarterly and The Common, and is the translator of Out of Time, a short story collection by iconic Palestinian author Samira Azzam. Her latest translation is best-selling Kuwaiti author Bothayna Al-Essa's satirical novel The Book Censor's Library, which she co-translated with Sawad Hussain.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781632063342
ISBN-10: 1632063344
Publisher: Restless Books
Publication Date: April 30th, 2024
Pages: 272
Language: English