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Why an athlete’s memoirs shocked the Czech Republic

Why an athlete’s memoirs shocked the Czech Republic

Plus, a YA author with a seven-figure film deal and a book that has caused outrage in India and Pakistan

Plus, a YA author with a seven-figure film deal and a book that has caused outrage in India and Pakistan

August/September 2018

Hard to swallow
Sporting memoirs don’t often include an X-ray of an ingested teaspoon. But “Jiná” (“Different”), the explosive autobiography of Gabriela Koukalová (above), a star winter biathlete from the Czech Republic, is unusual in many ways. A two-time Olympic silver medallist and world champion, 28-year-old Koukalová shocked readers when she revealed that a severe eating disorder had plagued her decade-long athletic career, ever since a junior coach criticised her body shape. The book sparked a debate on anorexia and bulimia, and much ugly commentary about whether women are psychologically fit to withstand the pressures of top-level sports. A reminder that women’s athletics can be miserable as well as glam, even at the top.

Games of bones
Most authors can only dream of the plaudits that Tomi Adeyemi is enjoying. Publishers fought over her debut novel, “Children of Blood and Bone”, which earned her one of the biggest advances ever paid for a young-adult book in America. She had a seven-figure film deal in place even before the first volume hit the shelves in March. Adeyemi’s tale is being billed as the next big fantasy franchise, drawing comparisons to “Game of Thrones”, “Harry Potter” and “Black Panther”. In the mythical land of Orïsha, a murderous king has purged everyone with supernatural abilities, including the mother of Zélie, the heroine, who is able to summon souls back from the dead. The rare few who eluded capture have been forced underground. Aided by a rebel princess, Zélie determines to overthrow the system and welcome magic back into the kingdom. Adeyemi, a 24-year-old Nigerian-American, has infused her story with west African folklore and tradition, as well as references to the global Black Lives Matter movement, to create an “allegory for the modern black experience”. She says she thought the book through to the very end before committing pen to paper; when she got going the first draft took only a month to write. Fans are already excited about the next volume, due next year.

Official secrets cracked
“The Spy Chronicles” has gripped both Pakistan and India with its claim that, not only was the Pakistani military given advance warning that America planned to eliminate Osama bin Laden in 2011, but it also received payment for its co-operation. The authors, Asad Durrani and A.S. Dulat, assert that because bin Laden was so popular within Pakistan, it had to feign ignorance of the raid. Since both are retired generals, they come with good credentials: Durrani was formerly chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Dulat was his Indian counterpart. In India, Durrani’s confirmation of ISI’s long-suspected support of militants in Kashmir has caused outrage. In Pakistan, civilian leaders have criticised Durrani’s revelations. Durrani has been summoned by the government “to explain his position” and barred from leaving the country.