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Swede a turn up for the books

The Observer points to the news that Hesperus Press – a tiny London-based publisher run by a staff of just five people – has acquired the UK publication rights to Jonas Jonasson’s comic Swedish novel The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (which sounds like the kind of title that must be translated from a snappier word that just doesn’t have a proper English equivalent, like schadenfreude, but the original Swedish Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann suggests otherwise).

Having been rejected by major publishers in the UK and America, Jonasson’s manuscript was picked up by Swedish firm Piratförlagetn in 2009 and became a massive word of mouth success. Its reputation amongst Sweden’s reading public led to its becoming the country’s best-selling title of 2010. It has since sold over a million copies in its native land, and is close to two million across its various translations throughout Europe, with over 500,000 sales in Germany alone (and those Germans know funny). Those are approaching Hunger Games numbers: this book, damer och herrar, is a deal almost as big as its title.

It’s a coup for Hesperus, who plan on making the novel’s British and Irish publication on 12 July a central part of their tenth anniversary celebrations this year. Besides the novel’s existing stellar reputation across Europe, and the hype that will naturally greet its English translation as a result, the publisher is also set to benefit from future sales boosts, with plans underway for film adaptations (plural). Much like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo before it, Jonasson’s book will be brought to the screen in its native tongue, before being remade by Hollywood in a version whose soundtrack will be part English, part fart jokes. Not that the latter happened exactly to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but you get what I mean.


Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

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