Professor Richard Evans' problems with the libel law
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But it was never sent to a printer and is still in typescript. Heinemann has told the author, Richard Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge University, that it has abandoned the project.


London, Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Publisher drops Irving trial book

Top historian's work, rejected amid libel fears, finds new home

John Ezard
The Guardian

LyingTHE UK publisher Heinemann has pulled out at the last minute from publishing a leading British historian's study of the Holocaust denial libel case, it was disclosed yesterday. The book, Telling Lies About Hitler: The Holocaust, History and the Irving Libel Trial, was put on sale by another publisher in the US two weeks ago. The British edition -- due out last week -- continues to be advertised on the website of Random House, Heinemann's parent company, as "a major contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust".

But it was never sent to a printer and is still in typescript. Heinemann has told the author, Richard Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge University, that it has abandoned the project.

The decision apparently sprang from fears that publication might provoke further libel action from David Irving, despite his humiliating defeat last July in a libel action which cost the publisher contesting it, Penguin Books, more than £2m in legal costs, which are still unpaid.

Heinemann's climbdown enabled Irving to rejoice on his website yesterday: "Book has been pulped by British publisher William Heinemann Ltd because it libels Mr Irving".

But the book is now likely to be taken over by another British publisher, Granta, which said last night after reading the typescript that it was "very enthusiastic and keen to publish".

Gail Lynch, Granta's associate publisher, said: "We do not see any terrible legal nightmares ahead".

Professor Evans, who has published 16 previous books, most of them on German history, was academic team leader for Penguin's defence in the 32-day high court case which resulted from Irving's libel action against the American author and scholar Deborah Lipstadt. He took two years preparing for the court a 740-page report on the historiography of the Holocaust.

At the end of the action, Mr Justice Charles Gray ruled that a book by Professor Lipstadt was justified in branding Mr Irving a Holocaust denier.

The judge found that Mr Irving was

"an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-semitic and racist; and that he associates with rightwing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.

"The content of his speeches and interviews often displays a distinctly pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish bias. He makes surprising and often unfounded assertions about the Nazi regime which tend to exonerate the Nazis for the appalling atrocities which they inflicted on the Jews.

"In my view, the defendants have established that Irving has a political agenda. It is one which, it is legitimate to infer, disposes him, where he deems it necessary, to manipulate the historical record in order to make it conform with his political beliefs."

The ruling left Irving facing a total of £2.5m in defence costs.

EvansSoon after the ruling, Heinemann commissioned Prof Evans's book. The deal was negotiated by Ravi Merchandani, the company's publishing director, previously a leading editor at Penguin. Random House's website advertisement for the book stresses the authority of Prof Evans's report for the court case.

It says his book "unpacks the issues raised by the trial, from the career of Mr Irving and the exposure of his methods, to the wider question of the preservation of the cultural memory of the Holocaust -- and the social and cultural functions of the historian in society".

A review on the US website of the American version, published by Basic Books, calls the work "a cogent and deeply informed study in the nature of historical interpretation".

StinktierYesterday Professor Evans and his literary agent, Peter Robinson, said in a joint statement: "Random House UK has taken the position that the work is not safe to publish at present. We disagree with that. But, since it was clearly not possible to proceed further with Random House, we have sought -- and found -- another publisher, Granta. They want to take the book on".

It is understood that Heinemann's legal advisers concluded that, though the book might present some legal problems, it was feasible to publish. Senior Heinemann staff were attending a conference yesterday. None returned phone calls from the Guardian inviting comment.


David Irving comments:

MY legal team and I have other reasons for hoping that Evans continues his present mendacious rampage. As Granta knows, I gave Don Guttenplan, an objective author, carte blanche to write what he thought and felt, and I assured him I would not take action in defamation against his book, whatever it contained. I trusted him. Evans has earned none of this trust, and if Granta publishes his Lying book unchanged, despite its having been rejected as libellous by another British publisher, they will get what is coming to them. He will not be able to plead fair comment, for obvious reasons. Granta is incidentally Mr Guttenplan's own publisher: we wonder what he is saying about their taking on a rival product to his own!


Related items on this website: 

Index on Richard Evans
Mr Irving warns new publisher Granta
Die Zeit reviews Menasse's book
Richard Evans: Lying About Hitler: History, the Holocaust and the David Irving Trial [Our book review]
Prof. Richard Evans smears Prof. Ernst Nolte, says world's Jews "never declared war on Nazi Germany"
Bertelsmann-Ableger [Heinemann-Verlag] kneift vor David Irving | Mr Irving warns new publisher

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