November 11, 2015
Little, Brown to publish memoir of Charlie Hebdo editor finished two days before his murder
by Taylor Sperry
It’s been nearly a year since the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, an attack that left 12 people dead after Islamic extremists opened fire during an editorial meeting at the weekly’s offices in Paris.
Since then, we reported on the protests against PEN America’s decision to honor Charlie Hebdo with the Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award at this year’s gala. After much controversy, more than 200 writers signed a letter arguing that “there is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression.” By portraying Charlie Hebdo as a martyr for freedom of expression, the writers felt that the foundation was implicitly condoning—if not championing—racism, religious intolerance, and the disenfranchisement of France’s vulnerable Muslim minority.
Meanwhile, other writers—among them Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, George Packer, and Alison Bechdel—stepped in to host the ceremony after others dropped out. In an email to the New York Times, Gaiman wrote:
“The Charlie Hebdo PEN award is for courage. The courage to work after the 2011 firebombing of the office, the courage to put out their magazine in the face of murder . . . If we cannot applaud that, then we might as well go home.”
Now, Hachette‘s imprint Little, Brown has announced that they will be publishing a manifesto by Charlie Hebdo’s late editor-in-chief Stéphane Charbonnier, who was killed in the attacks.
In The Guardian, Mahita Gajanan writes that the book—Open Letter: On Blasphemy, Islamophobia and the True Enemies of Free Expression—“covers issues related to the nature of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, including Islamophobia and the courage satirists require.” Charbonnier finished the book just two days before the attacks, and its publication is set for January 2016.
Reagan Arthur, publisher at Little, Brown, said in a statement: “I’m honored to be able to publish this important and lasting work on free expression.”
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.