Corpse Bride (and Groom), Travels With Democracy
From Boxing to Bassoons
While many eyes in Hall 8 at the Frankfurt Book Fair were ogling Google, international publishers were juggling a flurry of deals on the heels of a rather upbeat year for most. Here is a sampling of some of the most prominent and promising wares on display at the rest of the Messe.
From the agent who brought you the international sensation, Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind, comes The Penultimate Dream, by a relative newcomer from Colombia, Ángela Becerra. Awarded this year’s Azorín Prize in Spain and named Best Colombian Fiction Book of 2005 by the Booksellers Association of Colombia, the novel begins when two strangers (who later learn they are brother and sister) are asked to identify a pair of corpses which turn out to be their parents wearing their old wedding clothes, who have committed suicide in an ancient apartment in Barcelona. The novel splits into two different plots, reconstructing the lives of the deceased and revealing that their love story began in Cannes in 1939 where she, the daughter of a wealthy Colombian, meets a Spaniard who immigrated to France where he earned his living as a waiter. As their story is unveiled, a very special relationship blossoms between their children. Rights have been sold to Editorial Notícias / Casa das Letras (Portugal), Corbaccio/ Longanesi (Italy), and Blanvalet/RH Group (Germany). Contact Antonia Kerrigan at the eponymous literary agency (Spain).
Political discourse is rarely shied away from at the Buchmesse, and the Gyldendal stand was no exception. This year’s hot new creative nonfiction release, The Suicide Mission, features “two Danish beanpoles,” Nielsen and Rasmussen, who crossed the border into Iraq on January 1, 2004, carrying only a metal case with the inscription “Democracy: Destination Iraq.” The narrator speaks from Baghdad in the year 2025 with an omniscient view of the weeks in 2004 when the two visited Iraq, following Americans from the Kuwaiti border to the Sunni triangle, through Basra into Baghdad. Hailed as a “chilling eyewitness report” and “among the best political art to have been accomplished both here and abroad in recent years,” the book explores the debate on democracy and Iraq and Europe’s role in the new millennium. A sample English translation is available and rights are on offer from Pernille Follmann Ballebye at Gyldendal (Denmark).
Renowned German novelist and playwright Hartmut Lange, whose prose “lets things pass by and allows life to be lived – in all its mundane monstrousness,” has garnered critical acclaim for his latest novella within a novella, The Wanderer. Matthias Bamberg is a successful novelist, whose latest work, also entitled The Wanderer, leads him on a winding personal adventure. Bamberg suspects his wife Anita is having an affair, a fear legitimized when she moves out of their apartment. He books a flight to Cape Town, where he hopes to find his wife and her lover. “A story of disturbance, in which reality begins to evaporate and the world of appearances starts to solidify into substance,” Lange’s tale travels to a bewildering and foreign world and expresses that life “cannot be explained, but must simply be endured.” Lange is published by El Acantilado (Spain), Fayard (France), Voland (Italy), Inostranka (Russia), Best Seller (Brazil), and Mintis (Lithuania). Rights are available from Susanne Bauknecht at Diogenes (Switzerland).
It’s 1973 and a small newspaper in Patagonia is celebrating its 50th anniversary by inviting each section of the paper to report on an event that took place in 1923 in Seconds Out of the Ring by Argentina’s Martín Kohan. Sports editor Verani and cultural reporter Ledesma choose their respective themes: the controversial boxing match between Argentinean Luis Firpo and US champion Jack Dempsey in New York, and a guest performance that year in Buenos Aires by the Viennese Philharmonic of Mahler’s First Symphony, conducted by Richard Strauss. Though the two events hardly seem related, they suddenly become linked by a note that Verani finds in the margin of a newspaper in the archives. On the night of the boxing match, it turns out, a dead body was found in a hotel on the same floor where members of the Viennese orchestra were staying. Is there a connection? Kohan brings in a surprising and amusing twist, producing a “perfect mosaic” of seemingly disparate events. Rights have been sold to Seuil (France) and Suhrkamp (Germany) and are available from Jordi Roca at Ray-Güde Mertin Literary Agency (Germany).
“Continuing the twentieth century’s great tradition of metropolitan novels,” Germany author Reinhard Jirgl paints a portrait of Berlin in 2002 as the meeting place of two men battered by personal and historical events in Renegade: A Novel From a Nervous Age. One is a journalist and recent divorcé in Hamburg who travels to Berlin to meet the love of his life, while the other, recently widowed, had been a border guard for the East German regime at Frankfurt Oder on the border of Poland. The latter falls for a young Ukrainian woman and helps her and her brother escape to Berlin illegally. The city of Berlin emerges as the third protagonist in the novel: “the city as a consuming monster and as [the] machinery which puts small people through the [ringers] before curing them.” Jirgl has been published in France (Quidam), Spain (RD), and Russia (Kolonna) and rights are held by Friederike Barakat at Hanser (Germany).
In Israel, debut author Agur Schiff has penned a cinematic plot which flows “from historical fact to local legend, from sultry Tel Aviv to cool London, from the agony of destiny to the triumph of coincidence.” In Bad Habits, Elimelech Ben-Zion, a former member of the notorious underground resistance movement, has brought his son Amiram from Israel to a London hospital for a liver transplant. Manning the tollbooth in the hospital’s parking garage is former adversary George Lilly, a veteran of the British secret police in Palestine. The two aging enemies embark on an adventure through the streets of London, reliving their reckless days at the end of the British Mandate in Israel and meeting a rag tag cast of characters along the way, including a “hapless, homeless and sometime philosopher,” Annabel, and a liaison officer at Scotland Yard who moonlights as an amateur Shakespearean actress. Contact Ines Austern at The Deborah Harris Agency (Israel) for rights.
Finally, our round-up would not be complete without a mention of amiable French auteur extraordinaire, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, who enchanted us all as guests of Albin Michel at Frankfurt’s Alte Oper with a reading of his latest book My Life With Mozart. It was accompanied by readings of translated editions by his foreign publishers, and even a rendition of a piece composed by Mozart at the ripe old age of 5 that was nothing short of charmant. Contact Solène Chabanais at Albin Michel (France) for rights.