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Book News: In Support Of Persecuted Colleagues, Writers Turn To Letters

Alain Mabanckou, a French novelist born in the Republic of Congo, wrote a letter to support Cameroonian poet Dieudonne Enoh Meyomesse.
Etienne de Malglaive
AFP/Getty Images
Alain Mabanckou, a French novelist born in the Republic of Congo, wrote a letter to support Cameroonian poet Dieudonne Enoh Meyomesse.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Saturday marks the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, a day of remembrance on behalf of persecuted writers across the world. Now in its 33rd year, the event was hatched by PEN International to support and, in many instances, seek to free those writers now threatened because of their work.

This year, PEN International has recognized 900 such writers, and has selected five of them to address with an open letter. Each of these letters is written by a fellow author, and The Guardian has teamed with PEN to publish one each / day/ this / week.

On Friday, novelist Alain Mabanckou dedicated a letter to Dieudonne Enoh Meyomesse, a Cameroonian poet now serving a seven-year prison sentence for what PEN says are political reasons.

"By imprisoning a writer, they are playing with fire," Mabanckou writes. "How could they build walls around our imagination, when they know it has a pair of giant wings and that it sings, in every season, its hymn to freedom?"

Amid The Aftermath: You've seen the news already, no doubt: We shall have peace for our time. But now that the deal's been done, the dust has settled and the puns have all been spent — never has the phrase "bury the hatchet" seen so much use — what are we to make of it? Here's a brief roundup of reflections on the pricing agreement between Amazon and Hachette.

  • NPR's Lynn Neary spoke with Authors United founder Douglas Preston, who expressed cautious relief, and Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey, who poured a little water on the celebrations. "There was no real victory to be had here, not even a moral one," McQuivey said. "Both of these companies damaged themselves in the meantime while they were holding out against some principle which they have now just conveniently decided to overlook."
  • If neither side can claim a full victory, at least several writers expressed satisfaction. "It was heartening to see so many writers rally to the defense of their colleagues," announced Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson. "We'd like to think the display of communal spirit played a part in bringing the negotiations to an end — and we hope it prevents authors from being dragged into corporate disputes in the future."
  • Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, explains that "agency" is the key word in the deal: Hachette's agency over setting consumer prices for its e-books marks an important concession won by the publisher. Neither company comes away unscathed, though. "The result feels like a score-draw between two sides neither of whom could quite net the winning goal, and simply grew too fatigued to keep pumping the ball up the pitch," Jones writes. "But Hachette won the penalty shoot-out."
  • Some authors, however, just took the chance to dust off a few exclamation marks.
  • Book Deal For Fiancee Of Ebola Victim: The first Ebola patient to die of the disease on U.S. soil left behind a fiancee and their son in Dallas. Now, she plans to document the famiy's sorrow. Louise Troh, who was engaged to the late Thomas Eric Duncan, has signed a deal with Weinstein Books to write a memoir of her experiences.

    In a statement, Troh spoke of why she's picking up the pen: "I am writing this book to tell people about Eric, about our love story, about our family and about my faith that has been tested but not broken."

    The Ever-Present Eye: Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, knows how to profile a politician. His book This Town played like a string of profiles — savage and somehow loving, threaded with just a hint of exposition. Now, he's dropping that filler in a new collection of essays, one of which is excerpted at Biographile.

    "Public actors carry themselves with a jumpy expectation that they are being studied at all times," Leibovich writes. "Often they are."

    And A Tablespoon Of Melted Clocks: The Huffington Post reminds us of the important things: Turns out that Salvador Dali made an erotic cookbook.

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    Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.