Alison Flood in the guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 February 2009
Margaret Atwood has confirmed that she will be taking part in the Dubai literature festival, despite pulling out of the event last week over censorship fears.
Atwood, who withdrew from this week's Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature over concerns that a novel had been blacklisted from the event for containing a gay sheikh, will participate in the festival via video link from Toronto. She will take part in two sessions: an interview on the morning of 28 February as originally billed in the festival programme, in which she will discuss her life and writing career, and a panel discussion set up by International PEN on censorship, also on Saturday morning.
The festival, the first of its kind to take place in the Middle East, became mired in controversy last week over the apparent blacklisting of Geraldine Bedell's novel The Gulf Between Us for potentially offending "cultural sensitivities". It later emerged that the book was never included in the festival's programme, and that although it was submitted for consideration, it was rejected last September.
Atwood is a vice president of International PEN and, after reading about the furore over Bedell's novel, wrote to the festival's director Isobel Abulhoul announcing her withdrawal. In a subsequent piece for the Guardian last Saturday, she questioned whether she had been too hasty, and described the events as a "dog's breakfast".
All authors attending the festival, who include Jung Chang and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, are being invited to take part in the debate on censorship, with a full line-up to be announced by tomorrow.