Many of you are familiar with David Davidar. He’s the author of the best-selling novels ‘The House of Blue Mangoes’ and ‘The Solitude of Emperors,’ and was head of Penguin India for many years, before moving to Penguin Canada in 2004, a rising star in the publishing industry. Well, Davidar left Penguin abruptly this week.
Penguin Group vice-president Yvonne Hunter announced Tuesday that the charismatic CEO is leaving the company to return to his native India to “pursue his successful writing career and other projects.” [TOI]
At least that’s the spin the company initially tried to put on Davidar’s departure. Via Ashok Banker, I learned that Davidar had been essentially fired after Lisa Rundle, a former Penguin employee, filed a $523,000 sexual harrassment lawsuit against Penguin and Davidar.
The accusations are accompanied by quotations from several e-mail messages Mr. Davidar allegedly sent to Ms. Rundle during the period in question. Last year, he is said to have written that he “could do very little except think of [Ms. Rundle],” that she was “utterly gorgeous,” “a vision in pink sipping a champagne cocktail,” and that she should not be “stubborn” or “fight” him.
“Davidar over time became more and more intense with his persistent protestations of lust and desire for Lisa,” according to the claim, “and in return she became increasingly disturbed and afraid.”
The harassment allegedly culminated in an outright assault at the Frankfurt Book Fair last October when, according to the claim, Mr. Davidar appeared at Ms. Rundle’s hotel room door, “wearing excessive cologne, with buttons on his shirt undone down his waist.”
“Lisa stood in her hotel room into which Davidar had bullied his way, with her arms crossed, still near the door, and asked what he needed to discuss,” it said. “He told her to relax and just let him come in. She refused and said she wanted to go to sleep.”
Ms. Rundle claims she climbed on a windowsill to avoid her boss and again asked him to leave. “He forcibly pulled her off the ledge and grabbed her by the wrists, forcing his tongue into her mouth,” it said. [Globe and Mail]
p>Davidar says he’ll fight the charges “vigorously,” but the evidence might be pretty incriminating if Penguin has already terminated him.
p>UPDATE: Davidar’s wife is standing by him.
“We’ll get through this together,” says Rachna, who comes from a prominent book-selling family in New Delhi and managed McNally Robinson’s former bookstore in Don Mills. They’ve been together for 15 years.
“He can’t talk,” she says, gently. “Please don’t ask him.” [Link]
UPDATE 2: As Khoofi notes in the comments, literary critic Nilanjana Roy has written a post in support of Davidar.
Nothing in his record at Penguin India, and nothing in my personal and professional dealings with him, makes it easy to believe these allegations. I know character is no defence, but sometimes a man’s character does count. I hope the truth will prevail, as David has said in his statement, whatever that truth is. [Link]
(An earlier version of this post included speculation from Banker that I’ve decided to remove.)