- Author told the audience at London's Southbank Centre that the wrong computer file had been used
- The Guardian, Friday 1 October 2010
Jonathan Franzen's new book was released earlier this week by HarperCollins. Photograph: Chris Buck for the Guardian
It had been heralded as the novel of the century so far, but thousands of copies of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom face being pulped.
Speaking in London last night, the author maintained that the British printers had mistakenly published a previous draft of his text rather than the final version, and he urged fans not to read the novel until the correct version is released on Monday.
However, during the course of today the printing company contacted the Guardian to say that while there had been an error in the book, it did not originate with them. The publisher agreed with the printer: HarperCollins, which runs the 4th Estate imprint under which the book was released in the UK earlier this week, alleged that it was actually at the typesetting stage that the mistake happened. [Further details were expected to appear in a follow-up story in the Guardian on 2 October.]
Franzen told the audience at a reading of the book at London's Southbank Centre that the wrong computer file had been opened and copied, rather than one containing the final proof.
It is not yet known how many copies will have to be pulped. Franzen told the audience that all copies would be exchanged or refunded, including postage and packaging. He did not say whether copies printed in the US – originally published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in August – were affected.
Franzen won international acclaim for his 2001 novel The Corrections.
Freedom received glowing reviews in the US: "brilliant", "a masterpiece", "an indelible portrait of our times" were among the plaudits heaped upon it. It also earned Franzen a spot on the cover of Time magazine – the first novelist in the past 10 years. Franzen got further publicity when Oprah Winfrey selected the novel for her book club, despite his criticism of her selections as "schmaltzy".