Rights Roundup: Jon Fosse, Narges Mohammadi Awarded

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Alongside a pre-Frankfurt Rights Roundup, a look at two authors recognized by the Nobel Committee and Swedish Academy, writing in starkly different circumstances.

Jon Fosse. Image: Winje Agency, Agnete Brun

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Honor, and Hope
Even amid the crush of preparations that precede Frankfurter Buchmesse, it was impossible for regular readers of Rights Roundup not to stop and congratulate literary agent and frequent contributor Gina Winje on the Swedish Academy’s selection of Jon Fosse for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Gina Winje

Many industry professionals are pleased to see the honor go to the intensely prolific author and playwright, and certainly it was great to hear from Winje how overwhelming the good wishes and cheers from colleagues and associates in the business have been. If you missed it in our article on the news, we can heartily recommend again the interview Fosse gave to Merve Emre last November for The New Yorker.

One of the things Fosse says to Emre in that conversation: “Your writing is wiser, and it knows more than you as a person know. It’s bigger. It’s the gift of all great literature, I think.”

Fosse’s work, enormous in scope and number of novels and playscripts, in particular, is saidreported by the Winje Agency to have been sold into more than 50 languages and territories.

And with respect and profound regard, the world publishing community has acknowledged that the imprisoned Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi, who is published by Juliet Mabey’s Oneworld (November 3, 2022), has won the Nobel Peace Prize, although at this writing, news reports indicate that she still may not have been allowed to call anyone about the news. Her husband, Taghi Rahmani, accepted the 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honor in May, when it was conferred on her by PEN America.

Farnaz Fassihi at The New York Times wrote that her family had released a statement prepared in case she’d won, saying that, “Standing alongside the brave mothers of Iran, I will continue to fight against the relentless discrimination, tyranny and gender-based oppression by the oppressive religious government until the liberation of women.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s rationale for her selection for the award reads, “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.”

And Dietlind Lerner at PEN writes, “Narges Mohammadi has been forced to make unimaginable sacrifices for her work, including currently serving multiple sentences totaling more than 10 years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she has been threatened, beaten, and kept in periods of solitary confinement, a practice she has termed ‘white torture’ in her books and writings.

Narges Mohammadi

“It has been almost nine years since Mohammadi last saw her husband and two children, who are now in exile in France.

“And yet, despite these arduous circumstances, Mohammadi continues to defend human rights and speak out against authoritarianism from within prison, drawing attention both to ongoing political events and to abuses against her fellow prisoners.”

PEN CEO Suzanne Nossel says, “Narges’ indefatigable will to be heard, even from the darkest, coldest, and most isolated corners of an Iranian prison, is astounding. She championed change in Iran from her jail cell with a passion and bravery that can truly be described as heroic. As a witness to decades of atrocities, she has used her voice as a catalyst to awaken a new generation to understand that their words are one of humanity’s greatest tools. PEN America enthusiastically congratulates Narges Mohammadi and calls for her immediate release.”

As in each roundup, we use some of the sales copy supplied to us by agents and rights directors, editing that copy to give you an idea about a book’s nature and tone, but limiting the promotional elements. If you’d like to submit a deal to Publishing Perspectives, see the instructions at the end of this article.

Vita di Leonardo
By Carlo Vecce

  • Publisher: Giunti Editore, Florence
  • Rights contact: LeeAnn Bortolussi, Giunti Editore
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – China: Jilin Fine Arts
  • World Spanish: Alfaquara

Carlo Vecce

In Carlo Vecce’s biography on Leonardo da Vinci, promotional text from the publisher says, “the life of one of the greatest minds has now been retold by the only Leonardo scholar who knows his true story.”

While such an assertion as this—that only Vecce knows Leonardo’s “true story”—cannot be verified, of course, the text goes on to refer to a Vecce book previously seen here in Rights Roundup, Vecce’s The Smile of Caterina, Mother of Leonardo.

“With his recent discovery of the identity of the mother of Leonardo,” the company continues, “Vecce wrote his novel, Il sorriso di Caterina. Now The Life of Leonardo in 2024: with footnotes and bibliography, it intertwines history and detail to paint a complete portrait of a man whom we know so well but whose life still holds many mysteries.”

These Letters End in Tears
By Musih Tedji Xaviere

  • Publisher: Catapult, New York City
  • Rights contact: Anna Soler-Pont, Pontas Literary & Film Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – English/UK and Commonwealth: Jacaranda Books

Musih Tedji Xaviere. Image: Caleb Kusi

“Living in Cameroon, where same-sex relationships are punishable by law, the odds are stacked against Bessem from the start–a Christian girl with a deviant heart, and Fatima, a Muslim girl leading a double life.

“When Fatima’s brother finds out about them, he intervenes by assaulting them during a raid at the only gay bar in town.

“After spending three days in jail, Fatima goes missing. Some years later, Bessem embarks on a winding search for Fatima that will force her to face her worst fears.”

Tu cuerpo es tuyo
(Your Body Is Yours)

By Lucía Serrano

  • Publisher: NubeOcho, Madrid
  • Rights contact: Stephanie Barrouillet, SB Rights Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Marmot Books: Bulgaria
  • Portugal / Portuguese: Jacaranda World
  • French: Editions Chouette
  • Greece: Metaichmio
  • Denmark: Lamberth Forlag
  • Poland: Wydawnictwo Debit
  • Italy: Edizioni NubeOcho
  • South Korea: JJAN
  • Taiwan/Complex Chinese: Taiwan Mac
  • Japan: Poplar

Lucía Serrano

“In this book, Lucía Serrano, along with a group of specialists, approaches the subject of sexuality and prevention of abuse to girls and boys with simple and direct language.

“A book that has now become a bestselling title in numerous markets including Spain and Portugal.”

As Serrano puts it in the book, “Your Body is yours. And it’s wonderful.”

Threads That Bind (Book 1); Hearts that Cut (Book 2)
By Kika Hatzopoulou

  • Publisher: Penguin Random House / Razorbill
  • Rights contact: Lauren Abramo at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – French: La Martiniere
  • Greek: Patakis
  • Hungarian: Konyvmolykepzo
  • Italian: Giunti
  • Polish: Uroboros
  • Russian: Mann, Ivanov & Ferber
  • Spanish: Nocturna
  • Turkish : Olimpos

Kika Hatzopoulou

“In the YA fantasy-noir duology Threads That Bind and Hearts That Cut, children of the gods inherit their powers.

“Io, a descendent of the Greek Fates, can see and cut the threads that connect people to the things they love and to life itself. In Book 1, Io must solve a series of impossible murders to save her sisters, her soulmate, and her city.

“InBbook 2, Io faces dangerous threats and powerful players as she ventures outside the city and discovers what it means to follow—or defy—her fate.”

Before the Polar Night Falls
By Elina Backman

  • Publisher: Otava, Helsinki
  • Rights contact: Sten-Erik Tammemäe, Elina Ahlback Literary Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – Slovakia: Arkus
  • Finland: Otava
  • Denmark: Gyldendal
  • Germany: Piper Verlag
  • Sweden: Bokfabriken

Elina Backman

“A woman approaches Saana Havas to help with the mystery of her sister’s death. Her sister was found dead in Northern Lapland in 1998 and the murderer has never been caught.” When Saana agrees to assist and gets case material from the woman, it includes a manuscript written by the woman asking for help from a time when she did her own investigation.

“The police have given up on the case and no witnesses were ever found. Saana promises to help and receives all the material the client has collected. She travels to the North and investigates as the winter and polar night keep creeping closer.”

This book is part of a “Saana Havas” series, but it’s not necessary for readers to have read the previous installments in the group, according to the Ahlbach Agency.

The Fabulist
By Uthis Haemamool
Translated by Palin Ansusinha and Ploy Kingchatchaval

  • Publisher: Penguin Random House SEA (Southeast Asia)
  • Rights contact: Jade Fu, Grayhawk Agency
  • Book info: Read more here

Reported rights sales:

  • Newest – WEL / Penguin Random House SEA
  • Country: WEL / Penguin Random House SEA

We’re told by the Grayhawk Agency that this book is the first Thai novel translated into English and published by Penguin Random House SEA (which we note has duly credited both translators on the book’s cover—Palin Ansusinha and Ploy Kingchatchaval).

Uthis Haemamool

“The story follows four generations of a Thai family, from the matriarch—who was a tree and other beings before she became a woman—to her eldest son, a doctor who embarks upon a quest in the afterlife, from the doctor’s wife—who lives out the soap opera of her dreams—to a ghostwriter who turns family tragedy into fiction.

“Their stories contradict each other, but all is revealed as a young woman from the next generation returns to her hometown and the truth is finally out.”

Grayhawk’s Gray Tan says the agency is representing Haemamool’s novel at Frankfurter Buchmesse and in international language markets on behalf of Soi Literary. He also notes that the book is partly inspired by Daivd Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, giving you an idea of the sort of surreal qualities you’ll find in Haemamool’s book has.

Tan adds that in January his agency will open an office in Bangkok, staffed with a local team working in collaboration with Tan’s group in Taiwan. “We’ve been active in the Southeast Asia (SEA) markets since 2015” he says, “and represent many of our foreign clients there in addition to China and Taiwan. Our colleague Sherri Cheng, who looks after these territories, visits the book fairs there regularly and meets with publishers in Frankfurt as well. After eight years, we feel it’s time to take one step further” and establish the new Grayhawk agency in the Thai capital.

Submitting Rights Deals to Publishing Perspectives

Do you have rights deals to report? Agents and publishing-house rights directors can use our rights deal submission form to send us the information we need. If you have questions, please send them to Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com

We look forward to hearing from you.

More of Publishing Perspectives‘ rights roundups are here, and more from us on international rights trading is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.