Faber lands Epalanga's 'boundary traversing' debut

Faber lands Epalanga's 'boundary traversing' debut

Faber has acquired the debut novel Whites Can Dance Too by Angolan writer and musician Kalaf Epalanga, translated by Daniel Hahn.

Originally written in Portugese, the novel tells the story of Kalaf, an African musician stopped by Norwegian border control on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. While in a cell he considers his own story and how it intertwines with the Angolan musical genre of Kuduro. The novel also tells the story of Sofia, a Portuguese girl at the heart of the Lisbon dance scene, and Viking, a Norwegian policeman who has Kalaf’s fate in his hands. 

Best known internationally for fronting the Lisbon-based dance collective Buraka Som Sistema, with whom he won an MTV Europe Music Award, Epalanga is an author and columnist. He said: "Like the music that got me travelling around the world, I try to bend and fuse genres with literature. This novel tells so much about the place that I call home—music—and the rhythms, melodies and lyrics that nurture so many people like myself. Migrants who didn’t know when or how to return to their places of origin, and for whom moving forward was the only option. Collaborating with Daniel Hahn is a dream come true. He translated many of my favourite books from the Portuguese language." 

Alexa von Hirschberg acquired world English language rights from Emma Shercliff at Laxfield Literary Associates. She said of the acquisition: "Kalaf Epalanga is an extraordinary new talent. Epalanga’s writing, like his music, traverses all kinds of boundaries. In Whites Can Dance Too he has embraced auto-fiction, essay and travel writing to produce a truly modern novel: cross-border and cross-cultural. While the music gives the story its beating heart, it is really about the intersection of culture, race and  politics, themes that will appeal to a wide range of readers. It is a true joy to be working with Kalaf and Daniel Hahn on this singular novel." Epalanga added: "I couldn’t be happier that this story arrived at the hands of a music-loving Alexa and found its home at Faber."

Shercliff said: "While there is an increased interest in and commercial demand for African writers, lusophone [Portuguese-speaking] writers are still marginalised within the African writing landscape, so I’m delighted that Faber will use their unrivalled resources to bring this novel to a wider audience. This was my first submission at Laxfield Literary Associates, and I’m thrilled to have found such a perfect fit for Kalaf’s book with Alexa, whose passion for the project was evident from the moment we first discussed it."

Translation and screen rights will be handled by Blake Friedmann Literary Agency in association with Laxfield Literary Associates.

The book will publish in spring 2023.