UK Publisher Buys Novel That Terrified Gutless Random House
Random House's craven unwillingness to defend free expression is an immoral abomination, a mercenary flight from courage, a gutless lack of respect for authors, writing, and the free exchange of ideas.
But one British publisher, on the other hand, has a backbone, ethics and a commitment for writing. Read on:
From the Guardian: Controversial 'child bride of Muhammad' novel finds UK publisher
British independent publisher Gibson Square has bought Sherry Jones's controversial novel about the child bride of Muhammad, which was dropped by Random House US following warnings that it could incite acts of violence from radical Muslims. Jones's The Jewel of Medina was also pulled from bookshops in Serbia last month after pressure from an Islamic group.
Gibson Square, which has previously published provocative works including Alexander Litvinenko's Blowing up Russia and House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, paid what it described as a "compelling" advance to acquire The Jewel of Medina. It will publish it in October in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
"In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear," said Gibson Square publisher Martin Rynja. "As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate. If a novel of quality and skill that casts light on a beautiful subject we know too little of in the West, but have a genuine interest in, cannot be published here, it would truly mean that the clock has been turned back to the dark ages. The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time."
Random House was told by security experts and academics that the novel, for which it paid a $100,000 advance, was potentially more incendiary than both Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses and the Danish newspaper cartoons of Muhammad. Random House said at the time that it decided not to publish the title "for the safety of the author, employees of Random House Inc, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the book". The publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988 saw attempts made on the lives of Rushdie's Italian and Norwegian publishers, while the Japanese translator of the book was killed.
Rynja said that as a small publisher, Gibson Square would be more capable of handling any controversy. "With a book that is controversial – and we've done a number – it is incredibly important that it is looked at from all sides. That is very difficult for a large publisher to do as they are looking at 200 titles a month so a controversial one is just one in the mix."
He said that he hoped that once people read the novel in its entirety there would be a "healthy discussion" about its content. "[Jones has] done very careful and detailed research for the novel – she's writing about this love story which even after 1,400 years we don't know much about."
Rynja struck the deal with Jones's agent Natasha Kern, who has also sold the novel to Editora Record in Brazil and is in discussions with small Danish publisher Trykkefrihedsselskabets Library (Free Speech Library).
Kern said that she and Jones decided on Gibson Square because they wanted a publisher who would commit to the novel and Jones's career, "as well as an editor and publisher who are passionate about bringing The Jewel of Medina to widest possible group of readers. We wanted to publish this book as quickly as possible so that all those who are interested can read the book and discover what a wonderful and inspiring love story Sherry has written."
Gibson Square also publishes John McCain, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Naomi Klein, Richard Dawkins and AN Wilson.