Julian Assange’s ghost writer broke his silence about the failed autobiography with an incredible, very personal essay: Ghosting.
asked him if he had a working title yet and he said, to laughter, ‘Yes. “Ban This Book: From Swedish Whores to Pentagon Bores”.’ It was interesting to see how he parried with some notion of himself as a public figure, as a rock star really, when all the activists I’ve ever known tend to see themselves as marginal and possibly eccentric figures. Assange referred a number of times to the fact that people were in love with him, but I couldn’t see the coolness, the charisma he took for granted. He spoke at length about his ‘enemies’, mainly the Guardian and the New York Times.
But he was also losing touch with promises he had made and contracts he’d signed. His paranoia was losing him support and in a normal organisation, one where other people’s experience was respected and where their value was judged on more than ‘loyalty’, he would have been fired. I would have fired him myself if I hadn’t been there merely to help him straighten out his sentences. But his sentences too were infected with his habits of self-regard and truth-manipulation. The man who put himself in charge of disclosing the world’s secrets simply couldn’t bear his own. The story of his life mortified him and sent him scurrying for excuses. He didn’t want to do the book. He hadn’t from the beginning.
I interviewed Julian in stolen hours in the middle of the night, in the backs of cars and at my house in Bungay, while Harry gathered childhood material, but we knew we were up against it. Canongate was keen to publish before the summer and had no idea, despite my warnings, how unwilling Julian was. Caroline, his agent, believed he still wanted to produce the book but I knew he didn’t: I’d seen the lengths he would go to get on another topic, and knew he’d rather spend hours Googling himself than have his own say in the pages of his autobiography. I’d come into this fascinated by the ‘self’ aspect of it all, but the person whose name would be on the cover had both too much self and not enough. Still, we staggered on.
Ever feel you dodged a bullet? The relationship between O’Hagan and Assange remained friendly even as the book deal collapsed, but Assange apparently “forgot what a writer is, someone with a tendency to write things down and seek the truth” so I suspect that probably changed when this was published. Does anyone know? Was there a follow-up?