“Unauthorized” Assange Autobiography Leaked By Publisher


September 22, 2011

The Independent has published several advanced excerpts of Julian Assange’s “unauthorized autobiography,” which will be published in full in the U.K. tomorrow.

In one, Assange describes the thrill of hacking; in a second excerpt, he denies sexually assaulting two Swedish women and suggests the charges against him were set up by the U.S. government; in a third he describes starting WikiLeaks:

In 2006 I decided that I wanted to tackle institutions and governments, wherever they led their dark lives. I’m not an original political thinker, never claimed to be, but I know the technology and I understand the structures of government; and I was ready to throw the latter, where possible, into a bath of acid and boil them down to the bone.

The story of how these excerpts came to be published is just as interesting: In December, needing money for his legal defense against the sexual assault charges, Assange made a six-figure deal with Canongate, a small Scottish publisher. Andrew O’Hagan, Booker Prize-winning novelist, was brought on to ghostwrite the memoir, and he spent more than 50 hours interviewing Assange.

But in March, according to The Independent, a week after posing for the book’s cover, Assange abruptly changed his mind about the deal and pulled out. Assange denies “pulling the plug” on the deal and says he proposed a rewrite with a new contract and deadline. But Canongate says (PDF) that Assange had already signed his advance over to his lawyers and that, having sold the rights to an additional 38 publishing houses around the world, it decided to “honor the [original] contract” and publish “the unauthorised first draft.” Canongate says Assange will receive royalties after it has earned back the advance.

“I am not ‘the writer’ of this book,” Assange said in a statement. FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith, who conducted a lengthy interview with Assange for our film WikiSecrets, agrees.

“There is no resemblance between the voice in the book and the voice of Assange,” Smith told me, noting the contrast between the relaxed and self-deprecating tone of the book and the more grandiose and impersonal Assange he met. “That Assange has criticized the book as not enough of a “manifesto” is telling. This “autobiography” seems from what I have seen a very clumsy attempt to repackage Assange for the purpose of selling a book.”

U.S. readers will not be seeing the book anytime soon; Knopf, which had contracted with Canongate to release the book here, told the New York Observer that it had canceled its contract and “would not be moving forward with publication.”

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