Will Sally Rooney ban the Mandarin version of her new book because of Uighur concentration camps in China?
She needs to think through what she is doing in banning an Israeli publisher from translating her new book “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” into Hebrew. Woke posturing can quickly turn into a session of “whataboutery” (which the Irish are famous for.)
Should the Russian version go, given the way they have shot and poisoned and imprisoned democrats like Alexi Navalny and killed journalists?
How about the Burmese edition where ethnic cleansing has been going on after an Army coup?
It’s sad it has come to this. One of my few enjoyable interludes during the original pandemic was watching a bright new Irish talent create a huge splash all over the world.
Sally Rooney’s book “Normal People” became a much-loved series with its frank and moving depiction of first love.
Rooney has been in the stratosphere ever since, and I believe she has handled her sudden fame with real panache.
She has an understated manner and presence in Ireland and retreated to rural Mayo to write her latest book. She is a long way from being the kind of celebrity author many in her situation would seek to be.
She is overt about her politics, an out and out Marxist, which is fine and dandy, but some aspects of that philosophy have proven very detrimental to our world in the past -- think Stalin, think the imperialism in forcing most of Eastern Europe into becoming vassal states, think of the massive censorship, murder and jailing of people yearning to be free.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Bair divided the world up, rather cleverly, into countries that people are trying to get into versus countries people are seeking to flee. The Marxist Soviet Union countries would definitely have been places ordinary people were trying to get away from. (Remember the Berlin Wall?)
Now Rooney is exercising a little censorship of her own, banning an Israeli publisher from translating her new book “Beautiful World, Where Are You?” into Hebrew in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
She clearly feels strongly on the issue but I don’t believe in banning a cultural endeavor. Irish people, above all, should understand the negative impact of censoring a book, any book.
Next year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the writing of Ulysses by James Joyce; it was banned in America for many years. It was a Jewish publisher, Bennett Cerf, who took the US government to court and won a remarkable victory for freedom of expression.
The Palestinian issue is one where there is huge culpability on the Israeli side in terms of how they treat their Arab neighbors. The former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was vicious and relentless in his repression of the Palestinians and his extreme efforts to stop them from having a homeland.
I think Rooney would be certainly right to speak out on those issues about the occupation of the West Bank and other catastrophes visited on the Palestinian people.
But banning a Hebrew translation of her book by an Israeli publisher? That strikes me as more Stalinist than progressive. Depriving people of immersion in other cultures through books and other media will have the opposite effect to what she intends.
Argue, dissent, agree or do whatever you think is right to make the case for Palestinians, but don’t ban. There are already enough book-burning maniacs out there.