The literary world experienced an unusual shakeup on Wednesday when Ian Buruma, the editor of The New York Review of Books, left his job amid intense controversy over an essay he published by a former Canadian radio broadcaster who had been accused of sexual assault and violence against women. The New York Times reported that the magazine confirmed Buruma was no longer the top editor there, though it’s not clear whether he left the job himself or was fired. According to the Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland, which spoke with Buruma, the embattled editor is working on a resignation letter to formalize the end of his tenure there.
The uproar sprang from an essay the magazine published in its October 11 issue, which carried the theme “The Fall of Men.” The piece was written by Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC radio broadcaster who had been accused of various forms of violence and sexual assault by some 20 women. The case rocked Canada and Ghomeshi went on trial, and in an explosive 2016 verdict was found not guilty on all charges.
Critics slammed Ghomeshi’s essay for what was described as self-pitying and minimizing the scope of the accusations against him. In the piece, Ghomeshi claimed he’d been accused by “several” women. The actual number, as many on social media noted, was 20.
Compounding the backlash to the column was an interview Buruma gave in its wake to Slate. “I’m no judge of the rights and wrongs of every allegation. How can I be?” he said, pointing out that Ghomeshi had been acquitted. Buruma added, “The exact nature of his behavior — how much consent was involved — I have no idea, nor is it really my concern.”
Buruma had just taken over as the top editor at The New York Review of Books a little more than a year ago, and was just the third editor since the magazine’s founding in 1963. But Buruma, 66, isn’t backing down from his decision to publish the Ghomeshi essay. “I still stand behind my decision to publish,” he told Vrij Nederlander. As for the uproar and his ensuing departure after only a year on the job, Buruma struck a sad note. “I have now been convicted on Twitter, without any due process,” he said.