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07.03.2020 Europe

French publishers to go ahead with Woody Allen memoirs despite US protests

By RFI
ANDER GILLENEA / AFP
LISTEN MAR 7, 2020
ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

Leading publisher, Hachette, has scrapped plans to release the autobiography of filmmaker Woody Allen following an outcry and a staff walkout. But the book's French publisher hopes to press ahead. 

Hachette's announcement came after Allen's son Ronan Farrow denounced the book group over its plans to publish "Apropos of Nothing" on 7 April.

"The decision to cancel Mr. Allen's book was a difficult one," a spokeswoman for Hachette said in a statement emailed to AFP, adding it would return all rights to the author.

Allegations that Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was seven years old in the early 1990s has dogged the Oscar-winning filmmaker for decades.

The 84-year-old director of "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" was cleared of the charges, first levelled by his then-partner Mia Farrow, after two separate investigations. He has consistently denied the abuse but Dylan, now 34, maintains she was molested.

Hachette said on Monday its Grand Central Publishing subsidiary would release Allen's memoir in the U.S. on 7 April. 

Hachette chief executive Michael Pietsch on Tuesday defended the decision, telling The New York Times there was "a large audience" who wanted to hear his story.

The publisher had described it as "a comprehensive account of his life, both personal and professional".

Hachette staff stage walkout
The decision to publish sparked an immediate backlash with investigative journalist and best-selling author Ronan Farrow, Dylan's sister, announcing he was ending his collaboration with Hachette.

Ronan has long defended Dylan, who renewed her accusations against filmmaker Allen in the wake of the #MeToo movement in early 2018.

On Thursday, dozens of company employees in New York then staged a walkout in protest.

"We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow, and survivors of sexual assault," the employees said in an email, Publishers Weekly reported.

The spokeswoman for Hachette said company executives had engaged in "extensive conversations" with staff and others in the past few days.

"After listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG," she said.

She added that the imprint does "not cancel books lightly."

Following the announcement, Dylan Farrow thanked all the employees "who took a stand."

"I'm in awe and so very grateful," she wrote on Twitter.

French editor stands firm
The French edition of Allen's memoirs (“Soit dit en passant”) are to be published by Stock, a Hachette subsidiary, on 29 April.

In an interview with France Inter public radio Stock's chairman Manuel Carcassonne said he hadn't hesitated to publish.

“It's a 650-page book, these are most definitely memoirs, an autobiography. It's wonderfully-written, amusing, full of humility,” he said.

"For me, Woody Allen is one of the century's great artists, a great filmmaker. But beyond cinema, the book reflects a certain way of looking at life, it's a drole vision, a constant questioning of oneself, a vision about the absurdity of life and death.”

He declined to comment on whether Allen's book evoked the accusations of sexual violence levelled by Dylan Farrow, saying people would have to be patient and see for themselves.

“What I can say, and which is already known, is that this artist was entirely cleared on two occasions by the American courts, by judicial experts, by psychiatrists.

“My conviction is that he is entirely innocent of the accusations against him.”

'Woody Allen is not Roman Polanski'
Allen's memoirs are to be published at a very sensitive time with the French cinema world in turmoil following the decision by the César academy to give filmmaker Roman Polanski - wanted on rape charges in the U.S. and accused of sexual assault here in France - the award for best director.

Carcassonne admitted the context was "explosive" but that "we have to show common sense and not mix everything up".

"Woody Allen is not Roman Polanski," he continued. "Roman Polanski has acknowledged some of the accusations made against him. This is not at all the case for Woody Allen who has always protested his innocence and proved it in U.S. courts." 

Asked whether he feared some women authors signed to Stock would follow Ronan Farrow's lead and quit the publishing house, he said only time would tell.

“I haven't had the chance to warn all of our authors […] but I think critics of the book will be satisfied and reassured when they read it."

He said he was encouraged by how his own, all-woman, team of editors had reacted on reading the book.

"Any reticence my own team had, simply disappeared after they had read the book. We're not of the same generation, they're young and are naturally into defending women's rights [but] they were reassured once they'd read it."

Carcassonne said he didn't know whether Allen would come to France to promote the book on its release, "but perhaps later".

The coronavirus he said was unlikely to help given that Allen was particularly phobic about germs.

“He evokes as much in a very humorous way in the book when relating a simple weekend in the country.”

(with AFP)

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