Chimoni’s French Miracle, Lama Love in Germany, and Italy’s Sci-Fi Satire
Anyone out there remember Mr. God This Is Anna, a UK bestseller for Holt in 1975 that’s been in print at Ballantine since 1976? Well, it’s back to the future in France, where a similar title has just been published: Annaëlle Chimoni’s Le Livre D’Annaëlle, which purports to be the first-person story of an extremely gifted and severely disabled eight-year-old girl. Using a new method (espoused in the US by Nobel Prize–winning physicist Carol Lee Berger) that allows autistic or mentally handicapped children to communicate, Annaëlle has offered up a truly miraculous story. Born to a family of practicing Jews, Annaëlle speaks as an erudite adult, knows her “previous life” in detail (during which she was married to a rabbi in the Warsaw ghetto and died in a concentration camp), and recites the Torah. Early reviews of the work have been compelling — although with a preface by the Grand Rabbi of France, Joseph Sitruk, an endorsement is hardly necessary. We’re told 7,000 copies have sold thus far in France, amid interest from Spain, Italy, and Israel. Rights are available from Sylvie Guéric-Bertrand at éditions du Rocher.
Meanwhile in France, the extremely prolific Philippe Sollers (37 books since he started publishing in ’58 at the age of 22, of which 19 are novels) has delivered what L’Express refers to in its review as “the last volume of his memoirs.” The idea is that one novel of his leads to another like a musical suite or a spiral theme, with each piece fitting together to make a life. In the book at hand, Obsessive Love, international corporate lawyer Dora Weiss meets the author at a party at some vague point in the future. They wine and dine one another and eventually our hero decides that one sees and even thinks better when in love. The book has been sold to Spain (Seix Barral) and Greece (Ekkienes); contact Florence Giry at Gallimard for rights.
Rave, pre-pub reviews have also been pouring in for The Only Lover by Jean- Claude Lattès and Éric Deschodt, the dynamic duo that the French press is hailing as “the new Collins and Lapierre.” Lattès, of course, was president of Hachette for more than a decade, while sidekick Deschodt is a journalist and author of 15 books, including a volume on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry published last month. The new historical novel recounts the arrival of Vasco de Gama in the south of India at the end of the 15th century, and examines the profound impact of the Portuguese on the region of Kerala. Set for publication by Éditions du Seuil on May 5, the book is a main selection of Le Grand Livre du Mois, and Seuil is pulling no publicity punches (half-page ads in Le Monde; a trip for two to India to the bookseller who sells the most copies; an entire segment of Bernard Pivot’s show devoted to India and the authors on May 19). Mary Hall Mayer will auction US and UK rights at the end of May; see Gloria Gutierrez of Carmen Balcells for Spain and Ursula Bender for Germany.
Speaking of Germany, bestseller-meister Bernhard Schlink is back in action with his new collection of stories Flight From Love, which he undoubtedly hopes will soar even higher than his previous novel The Reader (an Oprah book-of-the-month). The new collection is comprised of seven stories about the entanglements of love, which are a considerable danger for a “baffled generation that always trips over the snares of its past.” The book hasn’t stumbled, however, with rights sold in 11 countries. According to Carol Janeway at Knopf, which publishes Schlink, no pub date has yet been set. See Diogenes in Switzerland for rights. Diogenes, by the way, doubles its pleasure this month with another German bestseller, Doris Dörrie’s first novel What Do We Do Now? The book concerns the 40-year-old aspiring-film-star-turned-fast-food-entrepreneur Fred Kaufmann, who grumpily follows his teenage daughter to a Buddhist monastery in southern France in hopes of dissuading her from falling in love with a Tibetan lama. Spiritual wisdom carries the day, and Fred’s journey is transformed into a search for self-enlightenment. Rights have been sold thus far in Finland and France; contact Diogenes’ Hedwig Janès.
Carrying forth the spiritual torch in Italy, bestselling author Stefano Benni’s Spirits is said to be a fierce and comic novel that begins, appropriately enough, with the end of the world. The surreal work is jam-packed with an audacious supporting cast that includes Elvis, a presidential dog named “Baywatch,” a frozen tunafish boss called “Musashimaru,” not to mention “all the great and servile heroes of Usitalia.” Er, right. Benni is also known for his sci-fi political satire Terra!, which was published by Random House in 1985. Some 130,000 copies of the new one are in print, with rights thus far sold to Lindhardt & Ringhof in Denmark. See Lieselotte Longato at Feltrinelli.
Argentina is going gaga over a historical novel with a slightly more down-to-earth cast in The Enlightened, by Marcos Aguinis. This one sports American religious fanatic Bill Hughes and Argentine torturer Abaddon, who between them spread a white-supremacist message and other bad juju across the lands. Aguinis is said to be the most widely read author in Argentina, and has won the Planeta España (the only Argentine so far to receive it) and the distinguished Great Honour Prize from the Argentine Society of Writers. His novel The Upside-Down Cross has sold close to 700,000 copies, and rights to the new one are under consideration in the US, but no deals have yet been struck. See Atlántida’s Jorge Naveiro. Also on the list in Argentina, Paulo Coelho’s The Manual for the Warrior of Light is said to be a small-format collection of philosophical thoughts and stories that’s being marketed as a gift book for the ruminative, pipe-smoking set. It actually posits that each of us is a “warrior of light” who can understand the miracle of life. Rights have been sold in nine countries since the book’s release in 1997, with 300,000 copies sold in Italy and 200,000 in France. See Mônica Antunes at Planeta.
On a last note, Australian Catherine Ford’s first novel NYC is set for publication on May 1. The book follows a young Australian bound for New York City to meet her birth mother. Ford’s collection Dirt was a big hit down under (“so damn stylish,” wrote one reviewer; “a voice full of promises,” sighed another) and she was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s best six young fiction writers in 1999. See Emma Gordon Williams at Text Publishing for rights.