Sir Philip Pullman QUITS as president of the Society of Authors after being condemned for defending teacher Kate Clanchy who was accused of ‘racism’ in her prize-winning memoir
- Sir Philip Pullman, who wrote His Dark Materials, had defended Kate Clanchy
- The 75-year-old has now resigned from role as president of Society of Authors
- The row was sparked when Sir Philip tweeted in favour of the author’s book
- The famed writer said activists will ‘find comfortable home in Isis or the Taliban’
Sir Philip Pullman has been dragged into the cancel culture wars for supporting a teacher activists accused of racist stereotyping.
The His Dark Materials writer was blasted for defending Kate Clanchy after she was ‘cancelled’ by her publishers over her award-winning memoir.
The 75-year-old resigned as president from the literary association the Society of Authors.
The row was sparked when Sir Philip tweeted in favour of the author’s book Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me.
He said those who condemned it before reading it would ‘find a comfortable home in Isis or the Taliban’.
He later deleted the tweet and apologised after a backlash from activists who claim the book was ‘racist’.
The His Dark Materials writer was blasted for defending Kate Clanchy after she was ‘cancelled’ by her publishers over her award-winning memoir
In his resignation letter from the SoA, he wrote: ‘I realised that I would not be free to express my personal opinions as long as I remained president.’
It caused a huge row over free speech at the society, with two literary dames – Marina Warner and Carmen Callil – walking out in protest.
Ms Clanchy was attacked online for including so-called racist tropes in her book, including ‘chocolate-coloured skin’ and ‘almond-shaped eyes’ about her pupils.
The 57-year-old writer said sorry and pledged to rewrite parts of the book but was still essentially dropped by Pan Macmillan.
Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me had earlier been awarded the Orwell Prize – but the revised version was still shelved.
The 75-year-old resigned as president from the literary association the Society of Authors after the comments about Ms Clanchy’s (pictured) work
The Society of Authors told its members over the summer to distancing themselves from Sir Philip’s tweets, even after he deleted them and apologised.
It said: ‘Philip wrote his comments as an individual, not in the name of the Society of Authors.’
It added the ‘president is an honorary position only: he does not play any part in the governance of the SoA’.
Chairman of the Society’s elected management committee Joanne Harris said it was ‘very hard for some of the SoA staff to follow what has been happening on Twitter without breaking our policy of not commenting on social media disputes’.
She said she wanted to ’emphasise that not only do we deplore racism and prejudice in all its forms but all our policies are active directives – they exist to make a real difference for people’.
Sir Philip has remained silent on the topic since, and his wife told the Telegraph he ‘isn’t allowed to talk about it’.
Dame Marina Warner, a historian at Oxford University, said: ‘Kate Clanchy and Philip Pullman have been vilified. I am not a great warrior or hardliner but I have resigned in solidarity with Philip Pullman.’
Dame Carmen Callil added: ‘My concern is that publishers and agents should not behave as they have been towards Kate Clanchy and Philip Pullman.’
Extracts from ‘Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me’ that caused controversy over ‘racism’
Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me had earlier been awarded the Orwell Prize – but the revised version was shelved
- ‘Cumar is long and slender as many of the Somali kids are, with a thin nose, narrow skull, and very dark, almost black skin. Aadil is more muscular and square-set, with chocolate-coloured skin, a broad-based nose, and rounded head.’
- ‘They’re a funny pair: Izzat so small and square and Afghan with his big nose and premature moustache; Mo so rounded and mellow and Pakistani with his long-lashed eyes and soft glossy hair. On a good morning, the two of them will clasp hands in greeting and stand still a moment: the manners of a long-lost bazaar.’
- ‘Shakila, meanwhile, seemed to have the floor plan of a poem in her head and to need help only with filling in the blocks. She would call out to me for words, urgently, her black, almost-shaped eyes snapping, slim fingers blossoming: Thingies!’
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