Book Jackets

Browsing the website of Irshad Manji, the ‘Muslim Refusnik’ who wrote The Trouble With Islam Today, it was interesting to note the variations (and similarities) between the book jacket designs in various countries worldwide.
My favourite is probably the image of the author’s mouth being censored (by the title), which appears in the French, Norwegian and USA editions. Finland, Belgium and Norway employ the same concept, but less effectively I think. By comparison, the English cover, depicting a group of Muslims at prayer, seems less imaginative, although the connotation with a phalanx of soldiers does convey one of the key concepts from the book:

Irshad Manji calls herself a Muslim refusenik. ‘That doesn’t mean I refuse to be a Muslim,’ she writes, ‘it simply means I refuse to join an army of automatons in the name of Allah.’
(from the Amazon blurb)

The English cover stands out as being very different from all the others. It is fascinating to look at what different publishers thought would sell well in the respective countries, and what best communicated the concepts of the book. Several jackets depict stone walls, while several others choose a veiled woman instead of Manji, with her uncovered, spiky hair. The covers for India and Canada are purely typographic. I am reminded of an article by my colleague Leo Warner, who wrote:

if you want to see a culture describe itself at the most organic level, you should observe the design and not the art.

6 Replies to “Book Jackets”

  1. I think there’s a meta-book idea in this. Images of Images of Islam.
    I don’t know, I could be wrong, but I feel if I was Muslim of some kind, I might object to the publishers’ negative focus – Islam is militant, fosters automatism, gags people, interferes with women’s free-will. Um, sorry, but isn’t that true of all cultures? In which case isn’t it hypocritical to imply that what is special/different about Islam is in fact the very things we have in common with it? Something naughty and disingenuous is going on here.

  2. You’ll have to read the book I guess, but there’s nothing wrong in singling out particular aspects of human culture for criticism, especially if you feel responsible for them, or want to direct their destiny in some way. Its just one book, with plenty of alternative viewpoints.

  3. Yes, I guess if that’s what the book is about then it makes sense 🙂
    I was just wondering what a positive image of Islam would look like on a book jacket, if any exist. I shall now go and look for one. And I will read the book, thanks to your post.

  4. Yes. This pleases me, as I have just written a post (of sorts) on my (rather poor) blog about positive and negative interpretations of the self same thing. I guess it links back to your pride/shame post too in a convoluted way.

  5. I was just wondering what a positive image of Islam would look like on a book jacket, if any exist.
    Nauseating pictures of perfect Islamic families, similar to the perfect families we get in the UK in adverts. Try any bookshop in Dubai or Kuwait for details.

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