Curvings of a Self-Help Author,Imaginary Friends in France Rated-R in Taiwan
Eva Agull ó has become famous after writing a successful book about addiction in Luc ía Etxebarria’s new novel A Miracle in Balance, which has charged to number 4 on the list in Spain. However, in Rush Limbaugh-like fashion, she herself has become a slave to certain demons, including alcohol, anguish and the judgments of others. As the ailing mother of a newborn, she lies in a hospital and sets out to write a letter to explain the story of the family into which her daughter has been born. With a narrative that shifts through time, and spans the globe from New York to Madrid and Alicante, Eva reconstructs the untold story of the Agull ó Benayas family, including all of the skeletons in the closet and the inheritances parents leave to their children, for better or for worse. Ultimately, she concludes that, in spite of her own bad moods, insecurities and neurosis, life itself is a miracle. “One of the most charismatic young authors on the Spanish literary scene, she has won the Premio de los Lectores de la Feria de Bilbao and the Premio Nadal. Rights to her latest have been sold to Heloïse d’Ormesson Editions (France), Saffraan (Holland), and Kedros (Greece). Contact Cristina Mora at Planeta (Spain).
Family secrets also abound in France this month, where Philippe Grimbert’s second novel, A Secret, which has sold 150,000 copies in France, is being praised as a “coup de coeur” by booksellers and critics alike. Rife with forbidden love, guilt, and the boundless curiosity of a child, all against the backdrop of some of the darkest chapters of the twentieth century, the book features a young boy who invents an older brother for himself who is stronger, better-looking, and more confident. Later in life, he feels the need to disclose his imaginary past, and is informed by a family friend and confidante that the invented brother, Simon, actually did exist, but died in a concentration camp with Hannah, his mother and the narrator’s father’s first wife. His world shattered, the narrator must confront his family’s veiled past. Rights have been sold in Germany (Suhrkamp), Italy (Bompiani), Spain (Tusquets), Holland (De Geus), Greece (Pletron), and Israel (Matar), with interest brewing in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the US. Contact Heidi Warneke, who has taken over the rights department at Grasset (France), from the recently-retired Marie-H élène d’Ovidio .
Four men and a women are chosen at random to take part in the scavenger hunt of their lives in German author Georg Klein’s The Sun is Shining on Us. Locked in a maze-like industrial building near a harbor, they are hired by Gabor Cziffra, a mysterious Godfather-like character to find an antique artifact, known simply as “a sun” which is hidden somewhere in the building. Observed by hidden cameras and microphones, the five begin their adventure to make a quick buck, but are soon deterred, to say the least, by a serial killer who is haunting the neighborhood. As fear begins to rule, the protagonists who are “always chasing a chimera,” delve deeper into the building, room by room and staircase by staircase, while also digging deeper into their own pasts. Klein has been published by DeNoel (France), and Ambo/Anthos (Holland), among others, and Astrid Kurth at Sanford Greenburger is offering US rights.
Also in Germany, drawn from her conversations with journalists, military staff, and former prisoners, essayist and literary critic for Die Zeit and Neue Z üricher ZeitungDorothea Dieckmann has put together a fictional text based on real facts in Guant á namo . In six scenes, she tells the life of Rashid, a prisoner of the camp, and explores the “paralysing fear, psychotic delusions, the manic identification with Muslim fellow prisoners, and resignation.” Born in Hamburg to a Muslim Indian father and a German mother, Rashid travels to India following the invasion of Afghanistan, to claim an inheritance from his grandmother. Along the way, he befriends a young Afghan and continues on to Peshawar, finding himself in the midst of a heated anti-American demonstration. He is suddenly arrested, handed over to the Americans, and shipped off to Gitmo where he is subjected to isolation, starvation, and deprivation in a tiny cage. Rights to the book, called “one of the best, if not the best German novel to be published since the dawn of the new millennium” and likened to the autobiographical writings of Primo Levi or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, are being offered by Anna Stein at Donadio & Olson.
Another work of fiction spun from tragic reality that is turning heads in Russia is Andrei Volos’ The Animator, which uses the events of the takeover of Moscow’s Dubrovka Theatre by Chechen rebels, as the framework for a tale of the “fantastic and mythical history” of Russia’s animators, an elite group of “scientists” popular in the early 20th century, who claimed to be able to resurrect people’s souls after death. As one of the animators, Sergey Barmin suffers at the hands of a long-lost love, a fact that will come to play later in the story, Volos introduces Salakh, a destitute young boy who is drawn into the extremist world of the Chechen rebels in search of a hot meal and a place to sleep. Volos adds to the mix a physics teacher who ends up a victim of the theatre siege, a corrupt Russian army officer who is secretly selling arms to the rebels, as well as another who buys the illegal arms, all the while evoking sympathies for characters on each side of the conflict. Rights to this winner of the Anti-Booker Prize and the National Russian Literary Prize have been sold to Frassinelli (Italy), and Hanser (Germany), and US and UK rights are still available from the Linda Michaels Agency.
Disturbing news from Taiwan this month, where a new rating system for books, audio, and video publications has gone into effect. Books there are now rated in two categories: general and restricted. Falling into the latter category are materials “containing ‘over-description’ of such criminal behaviors as killing, kidnapping or drug dealing; ‘over-portraying’ of the process of suicide; ‘dramatic depiction’ of violent, bloody, and deviant scenes, but acceptable by general adult audiences and languages, conversations, sounds, pictures or graphic portrayal of sexual behavior.” In an interview with the Taipei Times, Huang Jien-ho, general manager of Dala Publication Co., “specializing in books with spicy content,” criticized the new rating system as “violent” and “ridiculous.” As one well-informed source who wished to remain anonymous said, “Basically the whole spectrum of commercial fiction, is now R-rated. I guess Barbara Cartland will pass muster. Publishers in Taiwan had a hard time enough selling fiction.” Restricted publications will carry a label on the cover.