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.

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