Categorized | For the love of books, News

Are memoirs ‘prostitution’? Wikileaks and that book…

Posted on 22 September 2011 by Alice

Julian Assange’s ‘unofficial’ biography is set to be released by tomorrow – much to the Wikileaks founder’s disdain.

Assange - the memoir

Without his consent

The row has just developed, with Assange posting a statement on his own site:

I have learned today through an article in The Independent that my publisher, Canongate, has secretly distributed an unauthorised 70,000 word first draft of what was going to be my autobiography. According to The Independent, Canongate “enacted a huge security operation to secretly ship books out to thousands of stores nationwide without tipping anyone off as to the content of the book”. It will be in the bookshops tomorrow.

I am not “the writer” of this book. I own the copyright of the manuscript, which was written by Andrew O’Hagan. By publishing this draft against my wishes Canongate has acted in breach of contract, in breach of confidence, in breach of my creative rights and in breach of personal assurances. The US publisher, Knopf, withdrew from the deal when it learned of Canongate’s intentions to publish without my consent. This book was meant to be about my life’s struggle for justice through access to knowledge. It has turned into something else. The events surrounding its unauthorised publication by Canongate are not about freedom of information — they are about old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity—screwing people over to make a buck.

Oh dear.

The publisher claims Assange exclaimed that “all memoirs are prostitution” upon reading the first draft (BBC). This does have some element of accuracy I suppose – writing memoirs digs up old memories, past acts that maybe the author doesn’t really want to remember and is generally a mass-marketed way of airing dirty laundry in public.

Somewhat akin to being a celebrity, perhaps.

Undoubtedly, the book will fly off the shelves – if only due to the rubber-necking fixation with scandal found so often in the UK. However, unofficial or not, Assange’s book is going head-to-head with a World War II survival memoir, Jaycee Dugard’s story of her kidnap and imprisonment as well as competition from the political set Jackie Kennedy, Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney.

As with most things, only time will tell.

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