Sally Rooney clarifies stance on refusing novel's Hebrew translation by Israeli publisher

Award-winning author said her decision was in support of the pro-Palestinian movement BDS

HAY ON WYE, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 28:  Sally Rooney, novelist, at the Hay Festival on May 28, 2017 in Hay on Wye, United Kingdom.  (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

Irish author Sally Rooney has found herself embroiled in controversy and is facing accusations of anti-Semitism after refusing to allow her new book, Beautiful World, Where Are You, to be translated into Hebrew by an Israeli company.

The allegations came after it was revealed that she had declined a bid by Israeli publisher Modan for the rights to translate the work.

Award-winning author Rooney said she supported the pro-Palestinian movement BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – which calls for a cultural boycott of Israel over its policies towards Palestine. However, she issued a statement clarifying her decision after being accused of refusing to allow her novel to be translated into Hebrew at all.

Rooney said it would “be an honour” to have the book translated into Hebrew, but by a company that shared her political position.

She said that while she was "very proud" her two previous novels – Conversations with Friends (2017) and Normal People (2018) – had been translated into Hebrew, for the moment, she has "chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house".

She said she could not "accept a new contract with an Israeli company that does not publicly distance itself from apartheid and support the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people".

"The Hebrew-language translation rights to my new novel are still available, and 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," she said.

“In the meantime, I would like to express once again my solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

Rooney's stance was met with anger and praise on social media.

Beautiful World, Where Are You shot to the top of the UK's book charts when it was released in September, selling more than 40,000 copies in its first five days on sale. Normal People and Conversations with Friends have been adapted for TV, with filming on the latter to start in 2022.

Updated: October 13th 2021, 12:00 PM