Author Philip Pullman has raised £32,400 to provide relief for survivors of London's Grenfell Tower fire, and will name a character in an upcoming book after a young victim of the disaster.
At least 79 people were killed and hundreds left homeless when a fire broke out at the public housing Grenfell Towers high-rise on June 14th. In response to the disaster, literary agent Molly Ker Hawn—whose daughter attends school with children impacted by the tragedy—and authors Harriet Reuter Hapgood and Sara Barnard launched Authors for Grenfell Tower, an auction to benefit the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund.
As his contribution to the auction, Pullman offered to name a character in the second title of his upcoming trilogy The Book of Dust based on a suggestion from the highest bidder. The Book of Dust is set in the same universe as Pullman's highly influential fantasy epic His Dark Materials; La Belle Sauvage, the first title in the new series, comes out October 19th.
The description of Pullman's item reads:
"This book will follow the first part of THE BOOK OF DUST, ‘La Belle Sauvage’, which will be published in October this year. The second part (not yet titled) will follow next year. The right to name a character doesn’t guarantee that he or she will be good, bad, beautiful or otherwise, but it will be a speaking role with a part to play in the plot.”
When teacher James Clements submitted a bid of £1,500, he suggested that the character be named after his former pupil, Nur Huda el-Wahabi, who did not make it out of the tower:
"A life that was so full of promise has been cut short in the most terrible way. … [t]his would mean her name would live on. Plus, Nur Huda is a pretty cool name for a character. Please outbid me by lots though—it’s an important cause."
Clements described el-Wahabi, as “wonderful. Joyful, hard-working, fun and always keen to help. Her family were delightful, too.”
448 bids poured in to support Clements' suggestion, and when the auction closed on Tuesday, Pullman's item had raised £32,400 in total. The author, a former teacher himself, told The Guardian:
"I know how I’d have felt if a pupil of mine had been in some similar disaster … The absolute injustice of it struck home with me, and must have done with so many others. So I’m very pleased to see the success of James Clements’s initiative. I wish I’d met Nur Huda, and I’m desperately sorry she died. I hope the character I give her name to will be someone she’d have liked to know."
In total, Authors for Grenfell Tower has raised over £150,000 to support survivors of the tragedy. Although the auction is now closed, you can still support relief efforts through the Authors for Grenfell Tower auction JustGiving page, which benefits the London Fire Relief Fund.
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Featured photo of the His Dark Materials trilogy book covers via Knopf; additional photo: The Spider Hill / Flickr (CC).