How James Lasdun Found Himself Victimized by Anti-Semitic Cyber-Stalker

Writing Was Author's Escape From Non-Stop Online Abuse

Kurt Hoffman

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published February 25, 2013, issue of March 01, 2013.
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Meanwhile, Lasdun’s creative output diminished. Between 2007 and 2010, he and Davis wrote a travel guide together, and he published a single book of stories, “It’s Beginning To Hurt,” made up mostly of previously written material. “He couldn’t move forward. He was blocked,” was how his agent of 27 years described his condition in an interview. (Lasdun asked that the agent, who is identified by a pseudonym in the book, remain nameless, out of concern that publicizing her identity could put others in the book at risk.) Lasdun’s apprehension grew. The fact that Nasreen had moved to California was cold comfort; he wondered whom she would contact next.

In an effort to wrest control of his own narrative, he tried to document the stalking on a personal website, complete with samples of Nasreen’s emails that he could show to future employers or professional contacts in case she reached them. But he realized how paranoid it made him seem. “To say, ‘Someone is accusing me of being in a Jewish conspiracy to steal her work and sell it to Jewish Iranian writers,’ I mean, right off the bat you can tell that whoever is listening thinks they are entering into a world of total lunacy,” he said. Instead, Lasdun decided to write a book. “I didn’t feel like I had a choice about writing it,” he said. “It was all I could think about.”

In fact, writing the book is the only activity that has offered him psychological relief. “The most unpleasant part of it was not being able to think about other things,” he said. “Writing about it has made me less captive to it.”

He says the project also made him probe his own ideas about anti-Semitism, and it led him to revisit an incident in the life of his father, the renowned British architect Sir Denys Louis Lasdun. His father received a hate letter not unlike Nasreen’s when he was drawing up a proposal for the Hurva Synagogue, a historic building in Jerusalem. Lasdun is now researching a project on a distant relative named Baron Maurice de Hirsch who seeded Jewish farming settlements in the 1800s.

But the situation with Nasreen is far from resolved. Last summer, she began calling Lasdun at home. One time, Davis answered the phone. She can’t remember what they spoke about — “She didn’t say anything totally crazy” — but she does remember Nasreen accusing her of having the call traced by the police. Nasreen left several ferocious messages on the home answering machine. (After getting the approval of lawyers from his publisher, Lasdun played one of the messages for me. She sounded measured at first, then veered into a shriek: “The more trouble you get me into, the more deep you’re in, you piece of f—king dirt!” The publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux said that it relied on Lasdun’s account of the stalking, which corresponded with his agent’s story, to vet the book.)


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