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.
Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, has received glowing reviews from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama, among many others. That book’s English-language translation from 2014 still tops the New York Times’ list of bestsellers in the paper nonfiction category.
In the controversial Russian-language translation, Harari’s original references to disinformation during the Russian occupation of Crimea were replaced with disinformation by President Donald Trump.
The original inscription to Harari’s “life partner,” who is a man, was changed to present him as an associate and omitted the word “love.” 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 an advocate for gay rights and a critic of alleged censorship by Israel’s 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.