'All memoir is prostitution': Assange's unauthorised autobiography out

Assange's 'unauthorised autobiography', a deal for which was signed in December to fund legal defences and WikiLeaks' operating costs, went on sale in Britain today without his permission.

FP Staff September 22, 2011 16:02:34 IST
'All memoir is prostitution': Assange's unauthorised autobiography out

Some say Julian Assange is getting back what he started — leaking unauthorised  information. An autobiography, a deal for which he signed in December with Canongate to fund legal defences and WikiLeaks' operating costs, went on sale in Britain today without his permission.

Titled Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography, the book cover shows Assange with his mouth covered. Novelist Andrew O'Hagan is the designated ghost writer.

In December last year, Canongate outdid other bidders with a six-figure offer to Assange. The publishing house then sold the rights to 38 other publishers around the world, the Independent reported.  But what Assange thought would serve as  'one of the unifying documents of our generation' — part memoir, part manifesto — turned out to reveal more personal detail than he was comfortable with. Assange called the book "a narrative and literary interpretation of a conversation between the writer (ghost writer Andrew O'Hagan) and me.

All memoir is prostitution Assanges unauthorised autobiography out

Assange calls the book "a narrative and literary interpretation of a conversation between the writer (ghost writer Andrew O'Hagan) and me. AFP Photo

The publishers allege that a few days after his photo shoot for the book cover, Assange backtracked on the contract, and later said, "all memoir is prostitution".  On 7 June he informed Canongate that he wanted to cancel his contract. But since he had not refunded his 400,000 pound advance, they had the legal right to go ahead and publish the autobiography.

The Independent further reported: "They (Canongate)  tried to negotiate but found Mr Assange unwilling to reach a compromise. He was given two months to work on the manuscript but deadlines went by without any further work." Canongate further gave Assange 12 days to seek an injunction, which expired Monday, following which Canongate secretly shipped out books to thousands of stores.

After the Independent report was published, Wikileaks issued a statement on Thursday: Assange wrote:

By publishing this draft against my wishes Canongate has acted in breach of contract, in breach of confidence, in breach of my creative rights and in breach of personal assurances... This book was meant to be about my life’s struggle for justice through access to knowledge. It has turned into something else.

It is entirely uncorrected or fact-checked by me. The entire book was to be heavily modified, extended and revised, in particular, to take into account the privacy of the individuals mentioned in the book. I have a close friendship with Andrew O'Hagan and he stands by me.

The publisher has not been given a copy of the manuscript by Andrew O’Hagan or me. Rather, as a courtesy they were shown the “manuscript in progress” by Andrew O’Hagan’s researcher, as an act of generosity, and for viewing purposes only – expressly agreed to by Canongate. Canongate physically took the manuscript, kept it, and did not return it to Mr. O’Hagan or me.

Read Assange's complete version here.

Extracts from the book:

"I was beginning to get the hacker's disease: no sleep, bottomless curiosity, single-mindedness, and an obsession with precision."

Every hacker has a handle, and I took the name Mendax, from Horace's Splendide Mendax – nobly untruthful, or perhaps "delightfully deceptive". I liked the idea that in hiding behind a false name, lying about who or where I was, a teenager in Melbourne, I could somehow speak more truthfully about my real identity. By now, the computer work was taking up a great deal of my time. I was beginning to get the hacker's disease: no sleep, bottomless curiosity, single-mindedness, and an obsession with precision. Later, when I became well known, people would enjoy pointing out that I had Asperger's or else that I was dangling somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I don't want to spoil anyone's fun, so let's just say I am – all hackers are, and I would argue all men are a little bit autistic. But in my mid- to late teens I could barely focus on anything that didn't seem to me like a major breakthrough.

"The whole thing was right on the border of schizophrenia"

I was constantly searching for voluntary labour and holding online meetings that I'd scheduled with supporters. Once or twice, though, quite comically (though not at the time), I turned out to be the only person at those online meetings. And of course the whole thing was right on the border of schizophrenia: I'd be there, tapping away, being the Chair and the Secretary and bringing the next thing on the agenda and calling the vote. Mad.

 

 

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