Fourth Estate wins five-publisher auction for refugee investigation

Fourth Estate wins five-publisher auction for refugee investigation

Fourth Estate has won a five-publisher auction for My Fourth Time, We Drowned, a “powerful and ground-breaking” investigation into the plight of refugees from journalist Sally Hayden.

Helen Garnons-Williams, associate publisher, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Patrick Walsh at the PEW Literary Agency.

The book was triggered by a Facebook message sent to Hayden in 2018 that read, “Hi sister Sally, we need your help.”  The sender was a refugee held in terrible conditions in a Libyan detention centre. Over nearly two years of pulling at that initial thread, Hayden gradually unearthed the story of how Libyan militias and smugglers were colluding with European Union authorities to intercept refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. 

The synopsis says: “My Fourth Time, We Drowned is a fearless, beautifully written and deeply moving blend of narrative non-fiction and investigative journalism that shines a spotlight on the structural and individual racism that allows the rich world to turn a blind eye to the outrages carried out in its name. But it is Hayden’s access to primary sources that is the beating heart of her book: the voices of the people who reached out to her on social media from basement cells, where they were being tortured, from the aftermath of explosions, from rooms where hundreds of refugees crowded around one mobile phone wanting their stories to be told, their names remembered.”

Garnons-Williams said: “We are fiercely proud to be publishing Sally’s extraordinary book at Fourth Estate. She tells a story that is both shocking and shaming, and one that — like Amelia Gentleman’s The Windrush Betrayal and Emma Jane Kirby’s The Optician of Lampedusa — opens our eyes and acts as a catalyst for change. A work of deep empathy and rigorous investigation, it brings into sharp focus the individuals who are the collateral damage of politics, power and greed.”

Hayden contributes to the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington PostTIME, CNN International, the BBC, the Telegraph and others, as well as holding a core position as a foreign correspondent for the Irish Times. It was covering the Calais "Jungle" refugee camp in 2015 that sparked her interest in migration, leading her to turn freelance and concentrate on the refugee crisis. 

She said: “I am delighted and grateful to be working with Helen and Fourth Estate, which publishes writers I admire a lot, including Michela Wrong, Valeria Luiselli and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The suffering Europe is inflicting to cement its borders, in the name of its citizens, should be known by everyone, and I hope this book will help with that.”