In its first two weeks in print, He Who Blinks is Afraid of Death (Aschehoug) sold 4,000 copies in Denmark, a huge number for a debut novel. An autobiographical narrative set in the 1960s, the novel tracks the odd life of a young boy whose German mother is schizophrenic. His Danish father, an insurance agent, expresses his own formidable neuroses by insuring anything and everything that could possibly be insured. His parents’ bizarre behavior isolates the child from the already stifling social life of their provincial town, but through pure zest and ingenuity, the boy creates a world of fantasies, finding his way out of his claustrophobic misery. While the story is compelling, the man behind it is perhaps even more so. Knud Romer Jørgensen writes copy for several major ad agencies in Denmark and he’s also studied comparative literary history, but the international public might recognize him as one of the subversive characters in Lars von Trier‘s cult classic The Idiots (1998). Stupidity, mental deficiency, and quirky miscellany permeate his other work as central issues, though judging from his popularity, not as attributes. His previous publications include an anthology about stupidity (Rhodos 1999), a guide to the public lavatories in Copenhagan (Yamanouchi 2000), and numerous cultural studies on subjects as diverse as peppermints, revivalist preachers, and autoerotic suicide. All rights are still available for the bestselling novel. Contact Charlotte Joergensen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
While an isolated little boy wanders through Denmark in Jørgensen’s novel, an isolated troop of burly killers takes Brazil by storm in Elite Police (Objetiva), a fictionalized account of the day-to-day lives of the BOPE, or the Special Operations Police Battalion. With seven weeks on the bestseller list and nearly 24,000 copies sold, the book is a blockbuster about to become a blockbuster in another medium with Bob and Harvey Weinstein who acquired distribution rights for an eponymous film based loosely on the book. Exposing for the first time the grueling pace lived by urban guerrilla police officers whose mottos are “When in doubt, kill,” and “Don’t retreat, but don’t die either,” the Jarhead-esque novel opens as a brutal police commander whips his troop into submission on a 100-kilometer ride through the desert. Hallucinating and near death, the officers are finally given two minutes to eat as much food as they can from a dusty canvas thrown on the ground. The demoralizing training continues until one of the characters becomes involved in a plot orchestrated by both public safety officers and drug traffickers. Elite Police was written by anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares and two top police officers with law degrees, André Batista and Rodrigo Pimentel. Pimentel is also working on the script. Contact Julia Michaels (email@example.com) for information on rights, which are all available.
Taking France by storm in a less aggressive, more mystical manner is Press the Star Key (Grasset), the latest title by bestselling author Benoîte Groult. An allegorical novel that at times reads like an essay, Press the Star Key is narrated by Moïra, the astute embodiment of Destiny, who involves herself in the lives of a discontented married woman, Marion, and her mother, Alice, a former journalist and major player in the foundation of the women’s movement. Moïra helps Marion experience equality in a relationship by pushing her into the arms of a wild Irishman with whom she has an unexpected affair. With Alice, a woman who faces old age with fierce determination, Moïra eases her last years by giving her an out: when she’s finished with the world, Alice need only “press the star key” and Destiny will come for her. One critic calls Groult “a rebel with a sense of humor, a common sense fantasist who speaks of ‘the struggle’ without bitterness or mincing her words.” Still one of the top five books on the French bestseller list two months after publication, this “ferociously comical and moving” novel has sold more than 200,000 copies. English rights are available while rights have already been licensed to Holland (Arena, in a six-figure deal), Italy (Longanesi), Germany (Bloomsbury Berlin), Norway (Arneberg Oivind), and China (Sanhui Culture). Contact Heidi Warneke (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Destiny is not as benevolent to the protagonist of Birgitta and Katarina (Bonnier) whose tragic story comes from the life of Birgitta Bigersdotter, a member of the Swedish court in the 14th century. As a child, Birgitta feels called to become a nun, a vocation her mother encourages. However, after her mother’s untimely death, Birgitta’s father marries her off at the age of 13. Her eldest sister is likewise betrayed and Birgitta spends her life grief-stricken and powerless. The real life Birgitta makes a pilgrimage to Rome where she lives in poverty, tries unsuccessfully to found a religious order, records almost 700 visions, and is later canonized by the Pope. Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril‘s novel focuses on her relationship with her daughter, Katarina, who struggles to reach her bitter mother with love and is rebuffed. Bringing dark and icy 14th century Sweden into the 21st is a daunting task, but critics say the author “makes the Middle Ages arise anew with freshness and a sense of presence” and “is a fantastic storyteller.” Rights have been licensed to Denmark (Gyldendal), Holland (Prometheus), and Finland (Johnny Kniga Wsoy). For information, contact Susanne Widén (email@example.com).
In Poland, the literary mood is decidedly contemporary. The country brims with young writers and Proszynski is taking advantage of the talent with a new series called “The Literature of the New Generation” whose tagline is “New times, new writers, new prose.” Lubko Deresz, a very young (born 1984) writer from the Ukraine opened the series with Cult in April 2005. Since then, Proszynski has published Deresz’s follow-up along with four other titles. One of the voices belongs to Adam Kaczanowski, the author of three books of poetry including one about Batman. His debut novel, Without an End, “faces reality without fear.” A sort of tableau vivant of modern Poland, the novel observes with a detached tone the lives of a young model in a difficult marriage, a woman who is renovating her home, two high ranking managers vying for vacation time, and a ten year-old who is determined to become the richest man on Earth. With humor as well as desperation, the characters struggle to change their lives with limited resources. More information about Proszynski’s series and other new Polish titles can be found at www.bookinstitute.pl. All rights are available to Without an End. For details, contact for Monika Szuchta (firstname.lastname@example.org).