Last October Sally Rooney decided not to give the rights to an Israeli publisher, Modan, to translate her latest book into Hebrew and publish it in Israel. Admirable of her to take a stand when we learn that Modan, a large Hebrew-language press, has ties to the Israel military. So far, so political. And the Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions movement must have been thrilled — global attention for their cause.
What happened next? Did a Palestinian publisher approach Faber, to buy the rights to translate Beautiful world where are you into both Palestinian, Arabic and Hebrew and publish it in Israel and the occupied territories? Let’s hope Faber/Rooney offer a small Palestinian press a good deal.
It will be a shame if those people who speak and read primarily in Hebrew or Palestinian Arabic don’t have an opportunity to reflect on her writing: the ‘polemic chapters’ presented in the form of Marxist and modern-day-gig-economy debates narrated in long emails between the main protagonist in the novel (a famous author) and her friend (a literary editor); the dialogue, artfully and seamlessly placed within paragraphs, so you often don’t realise you are reading a conversation buried within the characters’ unarticulated inner feelings. No need for Rooney to use the crudity of quotation marks and pressing a line-return TO LET YOU KNOW THE OTHER CHARACTER IS SPEAKING.
And the third element, her closing out of chapters with poetic notes. Small flourishes revealing the writer she is; bringing us stillness, the moonlight, the day sighing, the universe against which her imagined world rolls by.
It will be a sad thing if the Israeli and Palestinian people don’t have the opportunity, while living in their own territories, to buy and read this novel which has no questions to ask itself, just a desire to start a conversation.
#SallyRooney #publishing #Israel #Palestine #politics #writing #literature
This blog is another 'unpublished' letter, first written in October 2021.
© Alison Hackett, 27 July 2022
Alison Hackett — Director and founder of 21st Century Renaissance; author of The Visual Time Traveller 500 Years of History, Art and Science in 100 Unique Designs