Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil
Revision as of 15:55, 5 May 2009 by Claire Robinson
A novel for war?
The 1991 Gulf War required propaganda to sell the war and to justify it after the fact. Several "best sellers" were published at this time. In particular:
- When the Gulf war was over […] in September 1992, Atlanta-based author Jean Sasson brought out her second, best-selling Middle East-related book. Sasson’s first best-seller had been subsidized by the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington. Entitled The Rape of Kuwait, it had recounted horrors of the Iraqi occupation. The Kuwaiti government had distributed at no charge a quarter of a million copies to U.S. military personnel assembling in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to end that occupation.
Now, Jean Sasson again had hit best-seller lists with a book entitled Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil. The book purported to be based upon the diaries of “Princess Sultana,” an alias for a petite, snub-nosed granddaughter of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, founder of the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The princess purportedly was raised in the luxurious palace of a cruel and domineering father and a kind but overly acquiescent mother. Even as a child Princess Sultana rebelled at the subservient role ordained for her in a male-dominated society. She expressed her rebellion by outraging the mother of the handsome young British-educated lawyer cousin with whom her father had arranged a marriage.
A plagiarism lawsuit ensued, in which the nature of Sasson's novels were explored:
- Adsani’s current suit, along with an earlier one over author’s royalties initiated by Ms. Sasson against the publishers of her first book, The Rape of Kuwait, provide a rare look into the world of literary Arab-bashing, which is driven primarily by the Hollywood film industry’s seemingly insatiable appetite for works in which Arabs are the villains.
In fact Ms. Sasson’s first book purportedly was written in nine days and was published concurrently with a campaign for which the U.S. public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton “got nearly $10.8 million from the Kuwaitis” for helping the Kuwaiti embassy with public and congressional relations during the Gulf war, according to an article by John R. MacArthur in the March 11, 1996 issue of the New York Observer.
In addition to the quarter-million copies purchased by the Kuwaiti government for distribution to U.S. troops, 700,000 more copies of the book, apparently also subsidized by the Kuwaiti government, were shipped by Knightsbridge Press of California at a cost of $200,000 by Federal Express to wholesalers and dealers. Of those, perhaps 30 percent were sold.
The subject of the earlier lawsuit was Ms. Sasson’s claim that Knightsbridge owed her more author’s royalties than she had received. Gerald Sindell, former chief executive officer of Knightsbridge, which subsequently went out of business, countered that the expedited shipping, ordered by David Abramowitz, a company employee who was a close friend and confidant of Ms. Sasson, had incurred “enormous expense” which Sindell had not authorized. Subsequently Sindell has become an important witness against Mr. Miller and Ms. Sasson in the plagiarism suit involving Princess.
- Richard H. Curtiss, Princess Plagiarism Suit Provides Rare Look Into Literary Arab-Bashing, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 1996, pgs. 82, 111-112.
- Curtiss, op. cit.