Children’s Book Rights: Jon Fosse’s Kids’ Books Go to Bologna

In News by Porter Anderson

Jon Fosse’s sense for ‘what it’s like for a child to familiarize themselves with world,’ says Gina Winje, infuses the books being presented at Bologna.

Five children’s books by 2023 Nobel laureate Jon Fosse are being presented in the main rights center of the 2024 Bologna Children’s Book Fair in April by Norway’s Winje Agency

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

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‘Children’s Books ‘for Everyone’
Many of our Publishing Perspectives readers will recall the October news of the Norwegian author and playwright Jon Fosse‘s winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, at a time when his work has been gaining traction in the English-language markets.

Norway’s Gina Winje of the Winje Agency is Fosse’s agent, and she’s among the international literary agents who frequently reports deals to us for our Rights Roundup series.

From Winje’s office, Olivia Lasky has been in touch to tell us that the agency will be taking five of Fosse’s works for young writers to Bologna Children’s Book Fair (April 8 to 11), and this for some will be a novelty in itself. For all the gravitas of Fosse’s dramaturgy and literary genius, kids’ books just aren’t our first thought in terms of the canon being produced by this formidable writer in Norway.

The books the Winje Agency is presenting at Bologna, for the most part, have not been offered widely for rights acquisitions as yet, although translation and international publication rights for some of Fosse’s other children’s books have been handled by the agency, Lasky says.

At least four of the five, however, have at least one rights sale each already in place, with the French publisher L’Arche éditeur particularly keen. We’ll offer you those known rights deals as we quickly list these books.

The Five Fosse Books Being Presented at Bologna

The original publisher of these Nynorsk language (formerly Landsmål) works is Samlaget.

English-language sample translations are available for all five books: We’re told that Fosse’s English-language translator, Damion Searls, translated these to be able to read them to his son over the years.

Little Sister (Søster)
Illustrator: Vá Leong

Known rights deals:

  • French: L’Arche éditeur
  • German: Beltz
  • Slovakian: Modrý Peter
  • Swedish: Atlas
  • World English: Fitzcarraldo (as part of Scenes from a Childhood)

Illustrator: Akin Düzakin

Known rights deals:

  • French: L’Arche éditeur
  • Slovakian: Modrý Peter

Dark and Wet (Vått og svart)
Illustrator: Akin Düzakin

Known rights deal:

  • French: L’Arche éditeur

Very Very Slowly (Uendeleg seint)
Illustrator: Alf-Kåre Berg

Known rights deal:

  • French: L’Arche éditeur

The Fiddler Girl (Spelejenta)
Illustrator: Øyvind Torsete

No known rights deals.

‘Absurd Entanglements, Liberating Humor’

In talking to us about the presentation at Bologna of these Fosse children’s books, Gina Winje refers to them as “Jon Fosse’s almost unknown children’s books,” adding that “the pre-interest has been significant” as some in the business have learned that their rights would be made available.

Gina Winje

“Fosse wrote several books for children in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s,” she says, “including Very Very Slowly (1989), Kant (1990), Dark and Wet (1994), Little Sister (2000), and The Fiddler Girl (2009).

“Fosse has a unique eye for childlike curiosity, for the significance of repetition, and for what it’s like for a child to familiarize themselves with world,” Winje says. “Each of the five books Winje Agency is now presenting to international publishers is characterized by Fosse’s characteristic rhythm, absurd entanglements, and liberating humor.

“Fosse himself has described his children’s books as being for ‘everyone’—that is, children and adults alike. The reader will also recognize many of the same themes and stories that can be found in his theater writings and adult fiction. It’s a joy to highlight a new aspect of Fosse’s authorship, and we’re looking forward to introducing these books to more readers.”

You’ll find the Winje Agency with the Fosse books in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair main rights center at Table H19.

More of our coverage relative to the 2024 Bologna Children’s Book Fair

More Publishing Perspectives‘ rights roundups are here, and more from us on international rights trading is here. More on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, more on children’s books is here, more on the Italian market is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs 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 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.