Little, Brown commissioning editor Rowan Cope has acquired an acclaimed French novel about the life of scientist Alexandre Yersin.
Plague and Cholera by Patrick Deville came out in France in September and has already been the runner-up for the Prix Goncourt, and won the Prix FNAC (voted for by booksellers and readers) and the Prix Fémina.
Cope acquired world English language rights from Jennie Dorny, rights manager at Editions du Seuil, France. Auctions are said to be underway in several territories worldwide.
Yersin was a protégé of Louis Pasteur and the first to identify the deadly bubonic plague virus and develop a vaccine. He also travelled the world, embraced emerging technology, revolutionised agriculture and medicine, and even invented a tonic syrup that was the progenitor of a world-famous branded fizzy soft drink.
Plague and Cholera is described as a "brilliant, absorbing, multi-layered novel" which relates Yersin’s story "but it is also a haunting rumination on the difficult birth of the twentieth century; on science, literature and art; on nationalism, colonialism and war; on the demands of progress and the pursuit of adventure."
Translator J A Underwood will translate for publication in the Little, Brown imprint and in e-book in spring 2014.