International Fiction Bestsellers

Walk on the Wild Side
Sophie’s Choice in Sweden, Saddam Does Denmark, And Russia’s Crime Babe Rides Again

The co-creator of the longest-running Swedish soap opera in history sends white-hot sparks of sensuality shooting over Scandinavia this month with “a clearly political manifesto disguised as an entertaining literary soap.” In Stars Without Vertigo, now bounding up the Danish list (landing just short of the top 10), well-known Swedish writer and feminist Louise Boije af Gennäs unleashes the semi-autobiographical tale of 32-year-old Sophie, who enjoys conjugal contentment with a swell businessman while building a career as a novelist and journalist. The couple’s serenely bourgeois life amid Stockholm’s hoity-toity lurches toward the wild side, however, when lesbian radical feminist Kaja stalks on the scene, and the friendship between the two women erupts into a passionate love affair. Based largely on the author’s life (she, too, was married to a man when she fell in love with a prominent feminist in Stockholm), the book has wowed critics with its depiction of those “wonderful moments of vertigo experienced by the newly-in-love” and won praise as “a novel with a purpose,” as it dives headlong into questions of gender and prejudice. In real life, the author abandoned her much-publicized, four-year lesbian affair for the man to whom she is now married, which begs the question: Will we see a sequel? The author’s 1991 novel Take What You Want sold 110,000 copies, while the new one, which was originally published in Sweden by Norstedts in 1996 (the book stirred up too much controversy to get immediately published abroad), has now sold 150,000 copies in Sweden. Rights have just been sold to Norway (Damm), with a film deal under negotiation in Denmark. Contact Charlotte Jørgensen at Aschehoug.

Also in Denmark, hypnotic Hitchcock film meets John Grisham thrill ride in the latest offering from native Dane Jussi Adler-Olsen. Branded a “thriller of international standards,” Company Bash features Indonesian-born Peter de Boer, who heads up a firm in Holland that takes orders to bring down major corporations. Trouble starts when he receives a call from sinister Belgian operative Marc de Vires, who wants him to obliterate the Iraqi oil company Q-Oil. Though he initially refuses, our protagonist relents after a number of threats from a terrorist ring led by the sadistic Rahman, amid haunting real-world echoes of the Hussein regime. The author, who is best known for his successful first novel The Alphabet House (the story of two British pilots who are shot down over Germany on a secret WWII mission, a film version of which will be produced by Oscar winner Just Betzer), is actually a book publisher who spent most of his childhood co-habiting with his family at various mental hospitals, picking up detailed knowledge of the “crooked sides of life.” (His father was noted sexologist Henry Olsen.) The multitasking Adler-Olsen has also dabbled in the world of Saturday morning cartoons, writing scripts for Donald Duck and Woody Woodpecker episodes for Dutch publisher Oberon. Rights to both novels have been sold in Holland (Unieboek), and Finland (Gummerus/Book Studio), while his first novel has also been published in Sweden (Bra Böcker), Iceland (PP Forlag), and Spain/Latin American (Planeta). Contact the Lennart Sane Agency in Sweden.

In another Swedish phenomenon, journalist Sven Olov Karlsson launches a peculiar tale of aliens from outer space who colonize rural Sweden in his debut novel, The Italian. A tribute to the author’s late father, the book features the Tubans — “a knowledge-hungry race closely resembling green reading lamps” — who make contact with protagonist Karl-Erik Andersson (nicknamed “the Italian” since his schooldays because of his black hair and dark complexion, and prone to epileptic fits caused by a developing brain tumor). Transported to the Tubans’ ship during bouts of unconsciousness, Andersson slowly unravels while his two sons watch helplessly. Loudly praised as “a debut as strong as a tractor,” the book is said to be simultaneously surreal, witty, and poignant in its tribute to three generations ravaged by illness and insecurity. All rights are available from Katarina Grip at Nok (Sweden).

In Israel, 44-year-old Bible teacher and lecturer Yochi Brandes peers through layers of classical Jewish culture to report on the history of Zionism from an unconventional perspective in her fourth and latest novel, White Seeds. Deemed “a wonderful book for a winter weekend,” the novel tells the stories of Osnat and Rebecca, two women born a century apart: Osnat is a fabulously successful woman wounded by childhood scars of orphanage and poverty, while Rebecca is a Romanian country girl who becomes a passionate Zionist farmer swept up in a truly “rags to riches” scenario. Replete with a “sharp, thriller-like twist,” the novel embeds historical chapters within this tale of intricate family ties, ultimately probing the power of storytelling to alter lives. Brandes’ 2000 bestseller Turn Off the Love sold about 60,000 copies, investigating among other things “the creation of an artificial dog via magical incantations.” About 25,000 copies of the new one have been sold thus far, and all foreign rights are available. Email the author at [email protected].

In Russia, The Law of Triple Negation has just hit the stores with a 300,000-copy print run. The 24th installment from author Alexandra Marinina continues the exploits of Anastasia Kamenskaya, a Moscow detective who this time around gets into an accident and ends up with a broken foot. She seeks out an alternative healer who winds up dead when she calls him, and the plot soon thickens like smoke from the author’s trademark menthol lights. A former criminologist, Marinina has been deemed one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People in Russia.” “In short,” say adoring fans, “Alexandra Marinina is the Jackie Collins of Russian literature (only much better).” More than 32 million copies of her books have been sold in Russia, with rights sold to 23 countries including Germany (Fischer and Argon), Spain (Planeta), Italy (Piemme), France (Seuil), and Japan (Sakuhisha). English rights are still available from agent Natan Zablockis in Moscow.