Amanda Knox's Memoir Goes Up for Auction; No Ban for 'Tintin in the Congo'

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Today in publishing and literature: Booker Prize winner Ben Okri is fighting with a former editor who claims to have rewritten portions of his work, a Brussels court rules Tintin in the Congo is not racist, and buying Amanda Knox's memoir is not without risk.

Nigerian author Ben Okri, who won the Booker prize in 1991 for his novel The Famished Road, is hopping mad at his former editor Robin Robertson, who told The Telegraph in an interview he once had to "rewrite a book of Ben Okri’s written in Lagos patois." The book in question is Okri's 1988 short story collection Stars of the New Curfew. Okri sent a letter to the paper announcing he was "disappointed" with the claim, and accusing Robertson -- who is from Scotland -- of trying to "exaggerate his own importance." Robertson, for his part, says he doesn't understand why Okri is getting "overwrought" at the suggestion he punched up the text. [The Guardian]

The rights to Amanda Knox's memoir will be auctioned off this week, four months after an Italian appeals court overturned her murder conviction in the death of Meredith Kercher, her study abroad roommate. A publishing executive meeting with Knox says "Everybody fell in love with her," but there's still uncertainty in the trade about whether the American book-buying public is apt to feel the same way. This becomes especially problematic when you consider that the expectation is Knox will pull down a seven-figure advance for the memoir, and other books about her case have had less-than-stellar sales.  [The New York Times]

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The five-year campaign to have Tintin in the Congo banned in Belgium has taken a hit after a court in Brussels declined to outlaw sales of the book, which was written in 1931, and contains a variety of cringe-inducing scenes, including one where a Congolese woman bows before the teenage reporter and says, "White man very great. White mister is big juju man." In its judgement, the court explained that "neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to... create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment," and as a result, didn't amount to a violation of Belgium's Anti-Racism Law. The lawyer for Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, the Congolese immigrant who started a campaign to have the volume banned back in 2007, said his client intended to "take this case as far he can." [BBC]

We told you last week about the struggle English publishers are facing when it comes to publishing literature in translation, but it's not a problem in India, where sales of translated texts are booming. The difference is that many of the texts that are selling well in India are classics or just older releases that are finally being translated, whereas publishers in the U.K. and United States are focusing on new releases in foreign languages. [Times of India]

If you adore printed books, here's one happy byproduct of the digital reading age: publishers are spending more time and devoting more resources to making sure print editions stand out. But it's a fine line between improving the quality of physical editions and giving up and rendering them a specialty item. The risk is that the "specialist materials and finishing services required to produce high-quality printed books" will make printed book slook more and more like luxury items to consumers.  [The New York Times]


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