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JK Rowling describes sneaking Harry Potter manuscript out of home while preparing to leave husband

JK Rowling has described sneaking the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone out of her house “a few pages” at a time while she prepared to leave her husband.

The author opened up about her marriage to Portugese journalist Jorge Arantes in the first episode of The Witch Trials of JK Rowling, a new Spotify podcast documentary series about her life and career.

Rowling, who has previously spoken about her experiences of domestic abuse, said that she “left him twice before I left for good”, and was planning to leave Arrantes for the last time while pregnant with her daughter.

“He’s not a stupid person,” Rowling said. “I think he knew, or suspected, that I was going to bolt again. It was a horrible state of tension to live in.”

Rowling said that throughout this period, she kept writing and “the [Harry Potter] manuscript kept growing”.

“He knew what that manuscript meant to me, because at a point, he took the manuscript and hid it, and that was his hostage,” she said. “When I realised that I was going to go – this was it, I was definitely going – I would take a few pages of the manuscript into work every day.

“Just a few pages, so he wouldn’t realise anything was missing, and I would photocopy it. And gradually, in a cupboard in the staff room, bit by bit, a photocopied manuscript grew and grew and grew.”

Rowling, pictured in 2005, is the subject of a new podcast documentary series (Getty Images)
Rowling, pictured in 2005, is the subject of a new podcast documentary series (Getty Images)

Rowling said that she suspected that “if I wasn’t able to get out with everything, he would burn it or take it or hold it hostage. That manuscript still meant so much to me, [it] was the only thing I still prioritised saving… beyond my daughter.”

The author first wrote about her experience of domestic abuse during her first marriage in a personal essay released in 2020, in which she defended her much-criticised stance on trans rights.

In response, Arrantes gave an interview to The Sun in which he said that he didn’t abuse Rowling but admitted to slapping her, adding: “I’m not sorry.”

The publication was widely criticised by domestic abuse charities at the time for running the story on their front cover with the headline: “I slapped JK and I’m not sorry.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247, or visit their website here.