German police confiscated a novel

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On the Wednesday morning of 9 January 2008, police stepped into the premises of the gay publishing house Männerschwarm in Hamburg, Germany. They had a court order for a house search, and they were looking for a novel: Murats Traum ("Murat's dream") by Fabian Kaden, a pseudonym. There were 19 copies of that novel lying around Männerschwarm's offices. The police seized all of them, and also inquired about the real name behind the pseudonym - this task was also in the court order. The publishers told the police who the author was, and the police left with their seized novels. [...]

Now you might wonder: Why do police in a Western democracy go around searching publishing houses and seizing novels, that is, text-only fiction? The answer is, as I'm sure you guessed: Child pornography. The publishers were suspected of distributing "pornography with the theme sexual abuse of children:, since, as the judge who issued the house search wrote in her order, "the book contains on the pages 118 and 120 a scene, where the narrator and another grown man are having oral sex in front of a boy about 12 years old". [...]

This case scares me no end. When I first heard about it, it changed my view of Germany forever. I had recently moved here, and considered Germany the height of the enlightened Western civilization, where laws are thoroughly discussed before passed, and where freedom of expression was sacred. Article 5 of the German constitution explicitly states that "arts and sciences, research and teaching shall be free", and "There shall be no censorship." (Official translation.) To me, it doesn't matter that the publishers won in the end. It is the process that scares me - the process of dissecting a work of fiction, to decide whether a certain scene is relevant to the story or not - as well as the open threat from the prosecutor to the publishers and the author that they should not have described the boy as a child if they wanted to avoid violating the law. the lengthy footnotes and references in the verdict may give the impression of German thoroughness, but they are out of place. When such detailed judicial care is given works of fiction, it is worse than a dictatorship which would just call the books immoral and burn them. Then you at least know what you're dealing with.

The verdict in the case of Murats Traum clearly shows that art is not free in Germany. Authors and publishers must scrutinize their works - works of fiction - in order not to publish what I think should be called "corrosive writings", the word the Nazis used for the books they burned.

source: Article 'German police confiscated a novel' by Karl Andersson; The Lover, issue 04; Spring 2017