Since mid-December, the surprise hit climate crisis graphic novel World Without End (‘Le Monde Sans Fin’) has been the victim of a bizarre alternative facts campaign by anti-nuclear activists taking advantage of the busy pre-Christmas sales period. Claiming to be representatives of the book’s publisher, Dargaud, activists have been contacting French bookstores requesting to add a sheet of corrections to the book. Dargaud’s owner Média Participations has implied it will seek legal action.

World Without End
Source: Ouest-France

World Without End (‘Le Monde Sans Fin’), pitched as a discourse between cartoonist Christophe Blain, and energy and climate expert Jean-Marc Jancovici, has been the publishing phenomenon of 2022. Since its release in October 2021 it has sold over half a million copies (over 540,000 and counting) and has resolutely clung to the French comics charts – often being one of the only bande dessinée still present in a given month despite wave after wave of hot new manga releases. It was even in contention for the Eco-Fauve (a prize for ecological themed books) at this year’s Angoulême Festival. In June 2022 an English language edition was released digitally by Europe Comics. Unfortunately the book has proved controversial to some for co-author Jancovici’s pro-nuclear stance. 

The recent stunt by activists involved the production of a two-page anti-nuclear and anti-Jancovici message disguised as an erratum or correction sheet using the publisher’s logo in the header. While it is apparently not uncommon for correction sheets to be placed in titles after publication in France, the tone of the content raised suspicions enough for some retailers to contact the publisher. 

The fake corrections sheet began [translated by DeepL], 

“The wildfires of this summer have created a renewed concern in the team of our publishing house and have pushed us to requestion our publishing line. The book Le Monde Sans Fin, by Jean-Marc Jancovici and Christophe Blain, published in 2021, is a great success in bookstores and libraries, and we thank you for that. However, we regret to have to publish an erratum and to draw your attention to some important points.”

It then immediately goes after one of the book’s authors,

“Jean-Marc Jancovici has repeatedly demonstrated his formidable talent for popularising science. Nevertheless we must recognise his flagrant lack of competence in the human sciences. This shortcoming makes him reduce any social and economic reading to his engineer’s point of view, whereas technological development is not everything.”

Also saying:

“The general orientation of the book, despite its apparent critique of growth, is liberal and rather authoritarian, as you will surely have noticed.” 

The first reported incident of someone requesting to insert fake correction notes into copies of the book, according to the Ouest France newspaper, occurred in mid-December:

“The Ryst bookstore, in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin [in the Manche area on the coast of Normandy], was the first to report the arrival of a forger on Wednesday, December 14, 2022. A woman, posing as a representative of the publisher, asked to photocopy and insert an erratum with very political overtones in copies of the book”

Similar incidents were reported to the publisher from bookstores in Paris, Bordeaux and the Toulouse region. This then escalated further with a December 22 email claiming to be from the publisher sent to retailers requesting the correction sheets to be printed out and placed in store copies. Initially believed to be a series of seemingly isolated cases, as more came in the publisher noticed a pattern. 

The fake corrections sheet, using Dargaud logo in masthead. Note: Dargaud doesn’t have a “commission Environment”

Stéphane Aznar, general manager of Dargaud, said to Libération’s CheckNews fact-checking service:

“Three days ago, we received a referral from a bookseller who received such a visit. She found the situation a bit strange and turned to our sales team to find out more. It occurred in the Manche, in the vicinity of Flamanville [where a power plant is located and where an EPR-type reactor is being built].” 

They continued: 

“We thought the subject was very localized. But very quickly, we had similar feedback from a bookstore in the Toulouse area, then in Bordeaux, in Paris… We realized that there was likely a coordinated action and we reacted immediately. We wrote a press release that we sent to all our customers in the territory to explain to them that it was a crude fake and that, of course, Dargaud editions would never have been at the origin of a leaflet discrediting an author that we publish. Some booksellers, fortunately, did not fall into the trap and reacted immediately. Others, in a period like Christmas when they are very busy, were fooled and inserted the document in the book…”

Dargaud owner Média Participations (which also owns US publisher Abrams) has implied legal action is on the table, quoted in news magazine Marianne, that they “strongly condemn this defamatory action and will initiate the necessary legal proceedings”

World Without End
DeepL translated version