Philip Pullman quits literary association after defending ‘cancelled’ author accused of racism

Sir Philip was president of the Society of Authors, but was called to resign after speaking out for canceled writer Kate Clanchy

Legendary author Sir Philip Pullman has resigned as president of the Society of Authors (SoA), after defending a writer accused of racist stereotyping.

The 75-year-old author of His Dark Materials has thrown himself into a debate about cancel culture by defending the work of award-winning writer Kate Clanchy. After coming to Ms Clanchy’s defence, some have called on Sir Philip to step down as SoA chairman.

The SoA acts as a writers’ union.

Author Philip Pullman with his knighthood following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London.

Ms Clanchy’s Orwell Prize-winning memoir, ‘Some Children I Taught and What They Taught Me,’ Some Said, portrays a number of her former pupils in a ‘racist’ way.

The book used alleged racist tropes including “chocolate skin” and “almond eyes”, in reference to some of the students she had taught.

The Scottish writer issued an apology and assured the public that she would rewrite sections of the book. However, the reworked edition of the memoir, which was due out in the fall of 2021, was dropped as its publisher Pan McMillan parted ways with it.

Kate Clanchy following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London.

Kate Clanchy following an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London.

In response to the row, Sir Philip posted on Twitter that those who condemned a book before reading it “would find a comfortable home in ISIS or the Taliban”. He then deleted the tweet and apologized.

Last summer, the SoA sent an email to members, in which it distanced itself from Sir Philip’s comments.

The email read: “Philip wrote his comments as an individual, not on behalf of the Society of Authors…”

He went on to say that “the chairman is only an honorary position: he plays no role in the governance of the SoA”.

A letter posted on the SoA website confirmed that Sir Philip had resigned from his post.

Sir Philip is quoted in the resignation letter as saying: ‘I realized that I would not be free to express my personal views while I remained President.’

As The Telegraph reports, two literary ladies – Dame Marina Warner and Dame Carmen Callil – followed Sir Philip’s resignation from the SoA, in protest at the association’s handling of his case.

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Dame Marina told the Telegraph: “What’s happening is a revival of the old pillory. We want to get it right on racism and prejudice. We need more diverse treatments and more diverse writers, but what’s happening now creates an atmosphere of repression and anxiety.

“Kate Clanchy and Philip Pullman have been reviled. I’m not a big warrior or a hardliner but I quit in solidarity with Philip Pullman.”

Dame Carmen Callil told the same newspaper: “My concern is that editors and agents don’t behave the way they behaved towards Kate Clanchy and Philip Pullman. They should be the servants of the writers. You don’t just ban people.

“I can see Kate Clanchy used some unfortunate words, but people behaved in the most horrible way about it. The level of hate is extraordinary. We see it in the Society of Authors. Yet she dedicated years of his life teaching.

“What is happening now is censorship and it has to be fought.”

Andrew B. Reiter