The publisher said the existing text of the book would violate Russian law and that it could face arrest and harassment for distributing it
An Israeli journalist refused to censor his book in Russia after a local publishing agency requested revisions of parts criticizing Putin and state policies, leading the agency to cancel its publication.
The author, Nadav Eyal, and his agent were told by publisher Eskmo that the contract for Eyal's book, "Revolt: The Worldwide Uprising Against Globalization," was canceled due to criticism of Russia, and especially of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The latter is illegal to publish in Russia and could put the publisher at risk of arrest.
“Revolt” has become internationally popular since its initial 2018 publication in Hebrew. The nonfiction book examines cracks in the post-World War II world order and the resulting diplomatic and economic ties between states, which according to Eyal erases their unique characteristics. According to the book's thesis, the election of Donald Trump, Brexit and the rise of the far right in Europe are all expressions of this phenomenon.
Eyal combined research, empirical data and his own experience as a journalist covering many areas of the world to write "Revolt."
After the book's initial publication, the translation rights were sold internationally, including in China and the United States – where the book earned a recommendation from former President Bill Clinton – as well as in Britain, Germany, Sweden, Brazil and others.
The contract with Eksmo, one of Russia's largest publishing houses and one that specializes in nonfiction, was the latest one signed. But the publisher subsequently asked Eyal’s agent, Deborah Harris, for revisions of material critical to Russia – for instance, a section noting the low life expectancy of Russian men compared with their Western counterparts, which the book says results mainly from alcoholism and failures of Russia's health and education systems.
Another example was Eksmo's request to remove a sentence stating that Putin uses all the means at his disposal to repress, delegitimize and eliminate his opponents.
The publisher also proposed adding a note in the Russian translation stating that changes had been made, said Eyal. He refused, and the translation project was canceled.
This is not the first time that demands to censure Russian translations have come to light. In 2019, Russian readers noticed changes to Yuval Noah Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” whose criticism of Putin and Russia was removed from the local version of that book.
In another case, no Russian publisher was willing to release an illustrated children’s book with LGBT characters written by American author Lawrence Schimel, due to fears of a Russian law banning “homosexual propaganda.” The book was ultimately published by Sphere, a charitable pro-LBGTQ+ Russian foundation, but with a warning that it was appropriate only for ages 18 and up.
Eyal's agency described the situation as very sensitive, saying that some authors are interested in reaching a Russian audience and providing them with inspiration, but that in a nonfiction text – and especially Eyal’s book – the condition was not to edit it while it was being translated.
The agency said this was made clear ahead of time, but the publisher nonetheless came back with the list of changes, explaining that they violate Russian law and would not pass the censor and that they could suffer from harassment.
"We didn’t even consider" making the changes, says the agency, calling it a "sad" and "painful" situation. It added that Eksmo did not try to argue with the agency and immediately canceled the contract "even though the book has been a success around the world, and it has an especially important message in a place like Russia."
"Russia was a country where our books were always successful," the agency added. "The loss is shared – for us, for the writers and for the Russian reader. That's what's hard about boycotts."
Eksmo declined to comment.
Source: Archive Today