Monday, July 4, 2022

Normal People author Sally Rooney defends decision to turn down Hebrew translation of third book from Israeli publisher

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Sally Rooney has explained her decision (Picture: David Levenson/Getty Images)

Sally Rooney has defended not allowing her new book Beautiful World, Where Are You to be translated into Hebrew by an Israeli publishing house, as she continues her support for the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Controversy emerged this week as Israeli media reported that Irish author Rooney had turned down a translation bid for her third book from Israeli publishing house Modan.

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It was reported that Normal People author Rooney would not be allowing her latest book to be translated into Hebrew due to her support of a cultural boycott of Israel in support of Palestine.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote: ‘When Modan approached Rooney’s agent in an attempt to sign another translation deal, the agent announced that Rooney supports the cultural boycott movement on Israel and therefore does not approve translation into Hebrew.’

However, the 30-year-old has clarified that she would be happy for her novel to be translated into Hebrew, but will not sell the rights to an Israeli publishing house.

In a statement shared today, Rooney said: ‘Firstly, I was very proud to have my previous two novels translated into Hebrew by Katyah Benovits. I would like to thank everyone involved in the publication of those books for supporting my work. Likewise, it would be an honour for me to have my latest novel translated into Hebrew and available to Hebrew-language readers. But for the moment, I have chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house.

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‘Earlier this year, the international campaign group Human Rights Watch published a report entitled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.| That report, coming on the heels of a similarly damning report by Israel’s most prominent human rights organization B’Tselem, confirmed what Palestinian human rights groups have long been saying: Israel’s system of racial domination and segregation against Palestinians meets the definition of apartheid under international law.

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The author supports the BDS movement (Picture: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

‘The Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a Palestinian-led, anti-racist and nonviolent grassroots campaign calling for an economic and cultural boycott of complicit Israeli companies and institutions in response to the apartheid system and other grave human rights violations. It is modelled on the economic and cultural boycott that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.

‘Of course, many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses. This was also true of South Africa during the campaign against apartheid there. In this particular case, I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions.

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‘I understand that not everyone will agree with my decision, but I simply do not feel it would be right for me under the present circumstances to accept a new contract with an Israeli company that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.

‘The Hebrew-language translation rights to my new novel are still available, and if I can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines, I will be very pleased and proud to do so. In the meantime I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Thank you.’

Rooney’s decision has been equally praised and criticised, although the author has previously been open about her position.

In May, she was among the signatories of A Letter Against Apartheid, which called for ‘an immediate and unconditional cessation of Israeli violence against Palestinians’, and asked governments to ‘cut trade, economic and cultural relations’.

Rooney’s third book Beautiful World, Where Are You topped bestseller lists upon its release in September, selling 40,000 copies in its first five days on sale.

It is the successor to the phenomenon Normal People, which was turned into an award-winning series starring Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones.

The adaptation of her first book, Conversations With Friends, filmed earlier this year, and stars Joe Alwyn. 

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