Fishwick urges public to read Greer's controversial essay On Rape with 'open mind'

Fishwick urges public to read Greer's controversial essay On Rape with 'open mind'

Bloomsbury publishing director Michael Fishwick has urged people to read Germaine Greer’s controversial On Rape essay “with an open mind”, saying he hoped it would “provoke debate on this important topic”.

It was revealed on Tuesday (24th July) that Bloomsbury had acquired the essay by the outspoken author and academic for an undisclosed sum from Melbourne University Publishing (MUP) after the latter bought it earlier this year. News of the book was first mentioned by the Sydney Morning Herald in January in an interview with Greer during which she discussed the "whingeing" #MeToo movement.

MUP has revealed that 12 UK publishers “reviewed” the submission and Bloomsbury won the UK and Commonwealth rights following an auction after demonstrating its "irresistible.. promotional nous and editorial vision". The essay is on submission to many other countries in Europe, MUP said.

When asked why he wanted to publish the book, Fishwick told The Bookseller: "I and my colleagues read it and discussed it at length, being aware of the controversy certain of her comments had caused, before deciding to go ahead and publish. Bloomsbury are Germaine’s publishers and have published many books by her.”

He emphasised that despite the controversy provoked by Greer’s comments discussing the essay at book festivals and in media interviews, nobody had yet read it in its entirety, urging people to suspend judgment and read it "in full".

“There have been news stories, but no-one has yet read the book in full,” he said. “We hope people will read the book with an open mind; it sets out to ask questions and provoke debate on this important topic.

“Professor Greer is a long-standing leader of the women’s liberation movement and her views merit our attention, and we think people should have the opportunity to read the book in full. This is one of many contributions to the global conversation around issues of consent and rape.”

When asked why Bloomsbury was the right home for the publication, he added: “Bloomsbury has a reputation for publishing thought-provoking and topical non-fiction. We have been her publishers for some years and it’s right that we should publish this book.”

In the essay, Greer writes that "centuries of writing and thinking about rape—as inflicted by men on women—have got us nowhere".

"Bestial or banal, a proven rape may carry a prison sentence of many years, even life, but very few rapes ever find their way into a court of law," she said. "The prosecution of a selected minority of cases seldom results in a conviction. The crucial issue is that of consent, which is thought by some to be easy to establish and by others as impossible."

"Sexual assault does not diminish; relations between the sexes do not improve; litigation balloons. There has to be a better way," writes Greer.

Greer’s comments about rape have been criticised, with Everyday Sexism Project founder Laura Bates writing in May in the Guardian that it was “damaging and dangerous to suggest that rape is not a violent crime with a devastating long-term impact for many survivors.”

Emma Rusher, MUP’s head of sales and marketing, told The Bookseller: “More than 12 UK publishers reviewed it with Bloomsbury winning the auction. After much deliberation over a number of offers, Bloomsbury’s submission proved irresistible in terms of promotional nous and editorial vision.”

She revealed that On Rape is currently on submission in the US, France and a dozen other territories with a first offer from Spain. MUP has tasked Sharon Galant of Zeitgeist Literary Agency in Sydney, Australia, to negotiate rights.

In Australia and New Zealand, the book will be published by Melbourne University Press on 1st September, while Bloomsbury will publish it as a hardback priced £12.99 on 6th September.