Sally Rooney’s hit novel Normal People printed by state-owned Chinese publishing house

Sally Rooney’s last novel was printed by a state-owned Chinese publishing house, it has emerged.

The Irish novelist provoked a furious backlash this week after she refused an offer by Modan, the Israeli publisher, to translate her latest book, Beautiful World, Where Are You, into Hebrew. 

The 30-year-old released a statement defending her decision, insisting that while it would be an “honour” to have her latest book published in Hebrew, she would not give the translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house, citing “Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” as the reason for her decision. 

It has now emerged that a Chinese translation of Normal People has been available to purchase on Amazon since July after it was published by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) approved Shanghai Translation Publishing House. Four of the company’s senior executives are CCP members. 

The publishing house says on their website that they are “the largest comprehensive publishing house in China specialising in translation, mainly publishing translations of foreign literary and commercial fiction, humanities and social science.”

It is not clear whether the Chinese publishing house secured the rights from Rooney before publishing the translated text.

China has been accused of serious human rights abuses over the past few years, perhaps most seriously the forced internment of Uighur Muslims in the province of Xinjiang. 

Reports have emerged of Uighurs being arrested and subjected to rape, torture and sleep deprivation. Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs have gone missing, according to Human Rights Watch.

All book publishers in China are effectively state owned and the translation of foreign texts are routinely censored to omit or tone down political or sexually explicit passages. 

The Israeli foreign ministry this week accused Rooney of impeding peace in the Middle East describing her stance as “narrow minded”.

Rooney responded to the controversy, explaining it was in keeping with her support for the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement, which calls for an economic and cultural boycott of “complicit” Israeli companies and institutions.

She said: “Of course, many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses. This was also true of South Africa during the campaign against apartheid there.

“In this case, I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions.

“I understand that not everyone will agree with my decision, but I simply do not feel it would be right for me under the present circumstances to 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.”

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