Ella M., journalist
Sally Rooney has recently come under fire for boycotting an Israeli publishing house. This boycott resulted in her new title, “Beautiful World, Where Are You,” not getting Hebrew publication. The Irish author is well known for her books “Normal People,” which was developed into a hit Hulu series, and “Conversations with Friends.”
Rooney does not want to work with the publishing house that previously handled her two other books as she says they have not publicly distanced themselves “from apartheid and support the U.N-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.” On Oct. 12 Rooney released a statement via her agent in which she cited a published report from Human Rights Watch about Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. Rooney discussed the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which she called a “Palestinian-led, anti-racist and nonviolent grassroots campaign.” The movement calls for “an economic and cultural boycott of complicit Israeli companies and institutions in response to the apartheid system and other grave human rights violations.”
Rooney made it abundantly clear that while she is boycotting the publishing house, the Hebrew translation rights are still available. She wants “Beautiful World, Where Are You’” to be published in Hebrew for readers to enjoy. In her statement, Rooney wrote, “if I can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines, I will be very pleased and proud to do so. In the meantime, I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice, and equality.”
Many readers expressed their disappointment on Rooney’s decision, some calling her boycott antisemitic. Dave Rich, a leading expert on left-wing antisemitism, said in an Oct. 11 tweet, “Hebrew [is] a Jewish language, and cultural boycotts…are unavoidably boycotts of people, not governments. It’s the opposite of what art and culture should be.”
“Beautiful World, Where Are You” is about two friends Alice and Elieen, who frequently send emails detailing their lives. Alice meets Felix, and the two travel to Rome together. In addition, Eileen begins a relationship, once again, with Simon, who she has known since childhood. The novel explorers Alice and Elieen’s complex friendship and their new romantic relationships, and more importantly, how they affect each other. “Beautiful World Where Are You” was published on Sept. 7, 2021, and received positive reviews, scoring four stars on the book review site Goodreads.