An open letter to the editor of the French satirical cartoon magazine, Charlie Hebdo
The author is a prize-winning translator of Russian poetry, famous for his translations of Pushkin.
He is also the translator of Everyday Saints, the biggest selling Russian book in decades, with over 10 million copies in circulation in Russia. The English translation has over 180 reviews on Amazon.com, 90% of which are 5 star.
Gérard Biard, Editor in Chief
Dear Monsieur Biard:
On January 7, 2015, gunmen linked to the Islamic State terrorist group burst into the offices of your magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and murdered 12 journalists (in "reprisal" for cartoons mocking Islam's prophet, Mohammed). Afterwards, millions around the world marched and voiced their shocked sympathy for your loss by placards that read: " I am Charlie Hebdo."
On October 31, 2015, a Russian airliner carrying vacationers home from Sharm-el Sheikh to St. Petersburg crashed over the Sinai Desert, killing all 224 people on board, 24 of whom were children. The youngest, Darina Gromova, was just 10 months old. Evidence increasingly suggests that the plane was blown up by a bomb planted by Islamic State in Sinai, a branch of the very same terrorists who murdered your staff.
Your reaction? Two cartoons: one, showed a skull surrounded by airplane wreckage captioned "The risks of Russian low-cost flights" (the skull says: " I should have flown Air Cocaine"), another of a grinning IS gunman on whom wreckage rains down, with the caption "The Russian Air Force is increasing its bombardments."
You responded to natural Russian outrage about your cartoons by asking: "are we no longer supposed to comment on the news in a different way, or to say nothing more than it's sad?"
Joking about the murder of children--is that your idea of "different"? How can you and your staff possibly mourn your own loved ones, while mocking their murderers' other victims?
Monsieur Biard, do you want to be really different? Why not use the worldwide media platform that your staff's murderers gave you in the service of compassion? Where is your front page illustration mourning a sweet little Russian baby girl, your sister in grief? Let its caption be: "We are all Darina Gromova"
Julian Henry Lowenfeld