October 28, 2021

Sally Rooney Declines to Sell Translation Rights to Israeli Publisher

In her email, Ms. Rooney cited a report published this year by Human Rights Watch that said the actions of the Israeli government meet the legal definition of apartheid, and she expressed her support for the B.D.S. movement, which aims to harness international political and economic pressure on Israel. Supporters say the goal of the B.D.S. movement is to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, while critics, including many Israelis, say its real aim is the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Ms. Rooney is not the first prominent author to decline an offer to publish in Israel. Alice Walker said in 2012 that she would not allow a Hebrew translation of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple.” Ms. Walker, who was born in Georgia in 1944, said at the time, “I grew up under American apartheid and this,” she added of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, “was far worse.”

Deborah Harris, a literary agent whose company handles major authors looking to be translated and published in Israel, described Ms. Rooney’s decision as painful and counterproductive.

“When it’s ice cream or when it’s cement, or whatever else it is, it’s one thing, but when it comes to culture, I just have a very, very hard time seeing how this can be productive in changing anything,” Ms. Harris said. “What literature is supposed to do is reach into the hearts and minds of people.”

The people likely to read Ms. Rooney’s work in Israel, Ms. Harris added, are not those who support the policies to which she likely objects. “Her audience here are people who are in total support of a Palestinian state,” Ms. Harris said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/12/books/sally-rooney-israel-translation.html

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