LOS ANGELES—Both Apple and Syria have censored an erotic novel by Syrian writer Salwa Al Neimi titled The Proof of the Honey. News reports are not explaining why the book, whose subject-matter involves sex in modern Arabic society, is banned in Syria, but it could also be for the same reason Apple removed it from the iTunes store, the cover art, which depicts a nude torso, including buttocks. Not overtly obscene in any way, the image actually offers a classical presentation of the torso, a fact not lost on the book's publisher, Europa Editions, which expressed its displeasure on Facebook.
“One would assume, then, they would also consider classical nudes by Ingres, Renoir, and Botticelli, not to mention photography by Man Ray inappropriate,” it complained. “What about New York Book Review editions of Dud Avocado, Tyrant Banderas, or our very own The Days of Abandonment? NOPE! All are available in the iTunes bookstore.”
Oddly, the Al Neimi novel has reportedly been available in the iTunes store since 2009, and was only recently kicked off due to the “inappropriateness of the cover.” Even stranger, a French edition of the novel, La preuve par le miel—with the same cover—is still sold by iTunes, though why is anyone’s guess. Is it possible some Americans complained and Apple took the course of least resistance, not realizing the book was available in another language? Who makes these decisions, anyway? At times, they appear both arbitrary and absurd. Earlier this month, a Dutch non-fiction book, Hippie 2, was also rejected for inclusion in the Danish iBookstore even after the nudity objected to by Apple was covered by… apples.
Apple may be determined to continue channeling Steve Jobs’ legendary discomfort with sex, but in doing so is the publicly traded company willing to continue alienating people they otherwise want to target? The answer appears to be a grudging no in light of public activism that has succeeded in countering Apple’s censorious ways.
“Earlier this autumn,” reports the Guardian, “Apple censored the title of Naomi Wolf's new book Vagina, starring out part of the title. After readers protested—‘Are Apple worried that people are going to discover that 'lady parts' have a name?’ wrote one on the online store—the novel's title is now visible in all its glory in the Apple store.”
Better than the situation in Syria, to be sure, but is a war-torn dictatorship really the sort of benchmark Apple wants to be compared with?