(JTA) — Yuval Noah Harari, an internationally celebrated historian from Israel, omitted criticism of Russia from a translation of a book to avoid censorship there, he said.
The criticism was “liable to be censored by the Russian government,” Harari told Haaretz in an interview published Thursday about the Russian-language translation of his book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century.” He agreed to some changes so “ideas in the book reach the Russian readers, specifically because the book still contains a lot of criticism of the Putin regime,” Harari told Haaretz.
In the Russian-language translation, Harari’s original references to disinformation spread by Russia during the occupation of Crimea were replaced with disinformation efforts by President Donald Trump.
The original dedication to Harari’s “life partner,” who is a man, was changed to present him as an associate and omitted the word “love.” Russia under Putin has instituted various laws targeting the LGBT community.
The term “occupation” to describe Russia’s control of Crimea was changed to “annexation.”
The changes provoked criticism in Israel and beyond, including by television journalist Amit Segal. Harari, who is a campaigner for gay rights and a critic of alleged censorship by the Israeli government, would never have approved similar concessions when writing about Israel, Segal wrote.
Some changes in the translation were done without Harari’s knowledge, Harai said. He did not specify.
Harari’s 2014 blockbuster “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” still tops the New York Times’ list of bestsellers in the paperback nonfiction category.