Bookstore Politics: Sally Rooney’s Translation Trouble

You’ve probably heard of Sally Rooney, the mastermind behind Normal PeopleConversations with Friendsand most recently, Beautiful World, Where Are You. At just thirty years of age, Rooney has gathered much critical acclaim and success, along with a lot of publicity and people have been eagerly awaiting her latest book and whilst it has been met with significant praise, discussion has also turned toward her decision not to translate the book into Hebrew. 

A self-proclaimed Marxist writer, Rooney is not one to shy away from taking a political stance, which is evident amongst all three of her novels. Rooney emphasised that her decision was “in support of calls to boycott Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians”. Naturally, some people are in support of Rooney’s decision, while others are excusing her of anti-Semitism. Others are accusing her of hypocrisy because she has published her work in other countries with poor records on human rights. However, Rooney justified her decision as being in line with her consistent support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. To add further fuel to the fire, Israeli bookshops made the decision last week to pull Rooney’s existing work (Normal People and Conversations with Friends) from the shelves and their online shop. 

The media has twisted Rooney’s decision into a snub against the Hebrew language, but that’s not in fact the case. Rooney emphasised that it be an honour to make Beautiful World, Where Are You available to Hebrew-language readers, but she won’t do it until she finds a publishing house who promote the same political stance she is campaigning for. 

When I first read the headlines, I’ll admit I was shocked; words such as “refusal” and “snub” glaring at the reader. But is Rooney in the wrong? I don’t think so. We live in a world where nothing is ever right, and nobody is happy. You can’t support one thing, without supporting another, or else you’re a hypocrite. In this instance, I believe Rooney has made a decision most in line with her political stance, which she is entitled to do and whether her work has been published in other countries with questionable policies on human rights is not specifically unique to Rooney as an author. What she has done here, is made a decision to support a campaign she feels passionate about, and I don’t think one can judge her for doing so. 

– Maggie John

Featured Image Source: Still via Youtube

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