Argentinian Aristocrats, More DaVinci,
Writers with Good Noses
As if high school reunions don’t already conjure up enough fear and trepidation, Dutch author Simone van der Vlugt (best known for her YA novels) has brought this confluence of teenage angst to a whole new level in her first foray into adult fiction with The Reunion. Sabine’s life is suddenly turned on its head when she receives an announcement about her reunion. She isn’t worried about how she looks, or how successful (or not) her life has been, but instead hones in on an event of her youth that continues to haunt her — the disappearance of her classmate Isabel. Once her best friend, Isabel morphed into the most popular girl in the school, and dropped Sabine like a sack of potatoes. But it’s Sabine who still feels guilty because she knows Isabel would not have vanished if she had cycled home with her that fateful day. Now, 10 years later, the gnawing feeling of guilt continues to grow as multiplying fragments of memory come back to her. Sabine roots around in the past and comes closer and closer to the true, terrifying story behind Isabel’s disappearance. “ “ A hugely exciting literary thriller, presenting intriguing themes, such as the suppression of traumatic events, the competition between teenagers, and also between colleagues, love, and above all, friendship.” “An asset to the Dutch thriller genre, Van der Vlugt certainly measures up to Nicci French.” Contact Chris Herschdorfer at Ambo/Anthos (Holland).
Also in Holland, a brother and sister author duo who famously dislike each other’s work, have teamed up to write “two books in one” in Murder & Manslaughter.In Doeschka Meijsing’s half, Andrea is visiting her brother Timbeer, whom she hasn’t seen for years, on the peninsula of Ortigia in Sicily. The brother and sister are the middle children in a family of five in which sibling rivalry is the rule. Much like the authors, Timbeer and Andrea are also both writers and thus an even more potent rivalry has developed between them. Holed up in Timbeer’s apartment for days on end, Andrea stews about a solemn childhood pledge she made to kill her brother, while Timbeer works furiously writing a book about a homicide case in the north of Italy (call it the OJ trial of its day). Andrea’s short visit will lead to a surprising and unpredictable development in her relationship with her brother. In Geerten Meijsing ‘s half, Manslaughter, he refutes everything that his sister has written about him. Fascinated by another family, in which a woman is the sole suspect in the murder of her child, Timbeer tries to prove her innocence from afar. The press has offered high praise for Geerten as a “writer with a good nose, a heart and amazingly beautiful penmanship,” while Doeschka was nominated for the Libris Literature Award for her previous novel, 100% Chemistry, “a short, sparkling chronicle of four generations of women,” which is under option in France. Contact Floortje Jansen at Querido (Holland).
The shifty-eyed Mona Lisa makes another grand entrance into the literary world in Mart ín Caparr ós’ Argentinian Planeta Award-winning novel Valfierno. As if we haven’t heard the name enough, Da Vinci’s famous lady has disappeared from the Louvre in 1911, and the police are hunting through every nook and cranny of France to catch the culprit. The story revolves around the prime suspect, the Marquis of Valfierno, an Argentinian aristocrat “with a criminal mind that is both warped and brilliant.” The product of an impoverished childhood, he is unjustly accused of being the ringleader of an anarchist bombing attempt and is sent to prison. After his release, he takes up employment at a brothel where he meets the Frenchman with whom he plots “the heist of the century.” Caparr ós paints a portrait of an indelible character who “creates and recreates himself with a succession of disguises, infiltrating a high-society world to which he does not belong, and inventing a prestigious though entirely bogus name for himself.” Rights have been sold to Planeta (Brazil) and Ripol (Russia). Contact Thomas Colchie for US rights and Mercedes Casanovas (Spain) for all other rights.
Also in Argentina, a recently married Agostino leaves Italy at the end of the nineteenth century for the faraway city of Buenos Aires in Griselda Gambaro’s “breathtaking story,” The Sea That Brought Us. Once on solid ground, he meets Luisa, a washerwoman who falls in love with him and bears him a daughter, Natalia, who turns out to be as strong as the current that brought her father to his new land. Suffering and deprived, she hardens her spirit until she changes her own fate, but pays a high price in the process. Family ties are put through the the ringers of the political storms of the time, the fervor of anarchists and of striking workers. In her latest novels, she pierces the “luminous and urgent center of…the most definitive truths about love, forgetfulness, tenderness, the sick body, and the loss of recognition.” Contact Gabriela Adamo of Letras Argentinas for more information.
Society and its discontents are also on the march in France this month. Meet Rudy. He’s not quite thirty and he works at a plastics plant with Dallas (who has grown so accustomed to her nickname that she’s forgotten her given name). Both of their lives are thrown into a tailspin when the plant closes down in G érard Mordillat’s epic, The Living and the Dead. Woven through this ambitious account of fifty or so characters is the love story of a young couple carried along in the stream of contemporary history. Battered by passion, insurrection and tumultuous revolts, Rudy and Dallas harbor secrets and struggle to survive in a town where hardship has torn families apart, set neighbor against neighbor, and crushed private, social and political norms. The scramble for financial survival prevails over human compassion as Mordillat gives a voice to those who normally are denied the right to speak. Awarded the Prix RTL-Lire at the Salon du Livre, the novel is an attempt by Mordillat (who is a film and documentary maker) to occupy the territory, which in his opinion, has almost entirely been deserted by television and cinema – that of dire realism. Rights are with Charlotte Riegl of Calmann-Lévy (France).
Finally, following up on the controversy involving the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and its attempt to censor works from the six countries currently under trade embargo (see PT, 4/04), Arcade has published Strange Times, My Dear, the PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature despite the risk of fine and imprisonment. After teaming up with PEN, the AAP, and the AAUP to file suit against the US government, Arcade was issued a “general license” to “freely engage in most ordinary publishing activities” involving countries on America’s “enemies list,” but never received a direct response to the lawsuit. We salute them.