Deborah Yaffe

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Julian Assange, Janeite?

By Deborah Yaffe, Apr 18 2019 01:00PM

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is a controversial man. Depending on your point of view, he’s either a valiant freedom fighter dedicated to exposing injustice, or a perniciously irresponsible egomaniac who helped elect Donald Trump. (Or both!)


What we never knew until now was that he’s also a Janeite.


Or so we learned, more or less, from an interview published last week in the Daily Mail. In the story, Australian-British novelist Kathy Lette, perhaps best known as the co-author of Puberty Blues, revealed that before holing up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, Assange stayed in her attic.


“She described her frustration with his refusal to read women's literature,” the article reports, “adding, ‘When he was in Wandsworth Prison, I sent him in a big box of books by Jane Austen, the Brontes, all my favorite female authors, and said, "Now that you're a captive audience, read these books.” And of course he read them and he was completely converted to women writers.’ ”


OK, it’s true that Lette doesn’t explicitly tell us what Assange thought of Austen. Perhaps he is more a Tenant of Wildfell Hall kind of guy. But I like to imagine him curled up with Persuasion, weeping over The Letter. Kind of humanizing, don’t you think?


Regardless, however, this insight into Assangean reading habits clearly licenses a game of Which Austen Character Is Julian Assange. The secret-spilling Anne Steele? The my-way-or-the-highway Lady Catherine de Bourgh? The rude but principled Mr. Darcy? I await your suggestions.


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