Swede Heads for the Hills, Plato’s PR at the Bar, Ultra-Marathoner Darts Through Europe
A long-forgotten hero of speed gets his moment on the proverbial winner’s podium in German author Marc Buhl’s biathlon of fact and fiction, RASHIDA or THE RACE TO THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. Mensen Ernst was born in the late 18th century in a small mountain village in Norway, the son of a sailor whom he would never meet. The villagers all believed that his father suffered from calenture, a fever that left him restless and unable to keep still. And proving their case, one day he vanished into Africa and never returned, leaving only a map, some geotechnical instruments and the very same restless condition to his son. Ernst makes it his life goal to retrace his father’s past and find the source of the Nile. He bides his time running through the valleys of his mountain home but eventually lands in England, where he finds a job as a foot messenger for the duke of Queensbury. In England, Ernst falls in love with Gwendolyn, a maidservant who is by chance famous for her lack of speed. The duke tries to break up the happy couple and Gwendolyn is shot as the two attempt to flee. Ernst leaves England, and, in time, arrives in Germany, where he becomes a messenger for the democratic uprising. In one of his more fantastic accomplishments, he runs from Paris to Moscow in fourteen days, followed by a nice short jaunt to Greece. He is sent to prison for several years after he’s caught carrying Georg Büchner’s revolutionary magazine DER HESSISCHE LANDBOTE. His punishment? To walk in place every day. He finally escapes and boards a ship to Africa, where he will meet with more heartbreak, but where he finally reaches his goal of standing at the source of the Nile. Compared to Peter Hoeg, Buhl has scored a hit with his “portrait of a young road runner as a dreamy fidget.” Rights have been sold to Phébus (France).
Also in Germany, Karen Duve, who authored the novel RAIN published by Bloomsbury USA in 2003, has switched gears and written a classic fairytale with an ironic twist in THE KIDNAPPED PRINCESS: OF DRAGONS, LOVE AND OTHER MONSTERS. The action starts in the poor and inhospitable country of Northland, where the men have no manners, the winter lasts eight months, and the fashion sense is not quite à la mode. The one jewel in Northland’s crown is their princess Lisvana, but no princes would court her because her dowry consisted of some weak reindeer and a rather malodorous slice of land. The tide turns when Northland’s king kidnaps a singer who composes a song in praise of Lisvana which instantly becomes a worldwide hit. Prince Diego of Bascaria (a wealthy kingdom full of very refined inhabitants) hears the song and is convinced that she is meant to marry him. In contrast to his fellow townspeople, Diego has a strained relationship with his parents and has no qualms about leaving blissful Bascaria behind. He finds Lisvana and all is going swimmingly until he begins to show off his dancing skills at a welcoming party, when an unfortunate accident leaves his ego bruised. Or was it an accident? Another man is vying for Lisvana’s attention and his battle with Diego will play out through a kidnapping and an action-packed journey. Rights have been sold to Dulnyouk (Korea) and De Geus (Holland). All other rights to Duve’s and Buhl’s books are available from Jutta Willand at Eichborn (Germany).
Who hasn’t dreamt of having a garden party straight out of THE GREAT GATSBY or based on a set designed by Shakespeare? German author Florian Beckerhoff wondered what it might be like to ask Boris Vian what to wear to a costume party or to get tips from Philippe Djian on how to heroically cope with a killer hangover. The result is an amusing collection of party tips culled from more than three thousand years of world literature from Plato to Virginia Woolf in THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO PARTYING. Hemingway sure knew how to enjoy a Feria, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was a pro at scoring the digits of anyone who invited him on a plane ride, boat cruise, safari, etc., while Vian warns party-goers to choose a costume they can handle (i.e. if you’re no Batman, you can still be Robin, and “not everybody is able to genderbend convincingly”). Plato opines on the benefits of wine while Cortazar hails the art of drinking in a small bohemian round. The book includes photos and sketches of how parties looked at the time each author was alive, cocktail recipes from these same literary icons (not to mention, tips on how to crash parties to which one is not invited). French and Dutch deals are in the works. Contact Thomas Hack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A woman caught up in the daily grind of urban lifestyle is suddenly afflicted by an inexplicable allergy – to her own chaotic life in Swedish author and former ballet dancer Madeleine Hessérus’ debut novel, TO ISOLA. Constantly battling a barrage of emails and phone calls, and dissatisfied with a marriage characterized by a lack of time, her physical symptoms become more and more alarming. Driven by a revulsion for her own past, she hits the highway on foot seeking out evermore desolate areas. She meets a number of odd characters along the way, along with some animals that observe her living beside them in the woods. Little by little, she is tranformed, not only into a recluse, but into something essentially different from a human being. Compared to Anton Chekhov and to Swedish greats like August Strindberg, Hessérus offers “a literary voice in the debate of stress and the psychological problems it causes.” Rights have been sold to Natur och Kultur (Sweden), De Geus (Holland), and People’s Press (Denmark). Contact Maria Enberg at the Bengt Nordin Agency (Sweden).
Ever since her childhood, Johanna, now a young and brilliant archeologist, has been haunted by recurring dreams involving murders and love affairs in the monastery of the intriguing sacred monument, Mont Saint-Michel. Each ends in the same way with a headless monk uttering a cryptic phrase: ad accedendum ad caelum, terram fodere opportet (“To enter heaven, one must dig into the earth”). Johanna does just that, embarking on an archeological journey into the depths of Mont Saint-Michel, in THE ANGEL’S PROMISE by French authors Frédéric Lenoir and Violette Cabsesos. A thousand years after the spectacular edifice was erected, Johanna finds herself trapped in an enigma where the past and present, and the imaginary and real become blurred. Science mingles with the supernatural as she desperately tries to maintain her grip on reality, especially when suspicious events happening around her begin to mirror those of the distant past. Hailed as “a novel as grand as a cathedral, as powerful as Roman art and medieval faith,” and “an erudite promenade through Romanesque art, architecture, and the Benedictine order,” the novel was awarded the Prix des Maisons de la Presse and has already sold 80,000 copies in France. Rights have been sold to Piper (Germany), RH Mondadori (Spain), Yedam (Korea), Albatros (Poland), Circulo de Leitores (Portugal), and Electra (Greece). Contact Lucinda Karter at the French Publishers’ Agency.