W&N has acquired Olga by The Reader author Bernhard Schlink, a novel "of love, passion and history", focusing on the life of one woman from late 19th-century Prussia to modern Germany, translated by Charlotte Collins.
Federico Andornino, editorial director at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) in a deal struck by Susanne Bauknecht at Diogenes Verlag.
Olga was a number one Spiegel bestseller and remained on the Spiegel hardcover fiction list for 35 weeks.
It has since been translated from the German by literary translator Collins, whose co-translation of Nino Haratischvili’s The Eighth Life: for Brilka was longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020.
The book follows Olga, an orphan raised by her grandmother in a Prussian village around the turn of the 20th century, who according to the book's author "had to live below her capabilities – next to men who lived above theirs" but "loves against all odds".
"Smart and precocious, she fights against the prejudices of the time to find her place in a world that sees her as second-best," reads the synopsis. "When she falls in love with Herbert, a local aristocrat obsessed with the era's dreams of power, glory and greatness, her life is irremediably changed. Theirs is a love against all odds, entwined with the twisting paths of German history, leading us from the late 19th to the early 21st century, from Germany to Africa and the Arctic, from the Baltic Sea to the German south-west.
"This is the story of that love, of Olga's devotion to a restless man – told in thought, letters and in a fateful moment of great rebellion."
Andornino, editor, said: "There are few people we can truly call 'masters' but no one fits that definition better than Bernhard Schlink. Millions of readers have been enraptured by his skilful pen and I am honoured and excited to publish Olga on the W&N list: readers are in for a very special treat."
Schlink said: "Olga is a book about a woman who, like many women of her generation, had to live below her capabilities – next to men who lived above theirs. Yet she manages to live a self-determined life, to succeed against all odds, to cope with war and suppression and expulsion – the disasters of the 20th century. And she loves against all odds: passionately, desperately, wisely. I cannot express how happy it makes me that my books reach and move readers worldwide, and I am thrilled that Olga is coming out in English, thanks to Charlotte Collins’s flawless translation."
Collins, translator, said: "It has been such a pleasure to work with Bernhard Schlink on Olga. In his spare, incisive prose, every word, every emphasis is placed with tremendous care and precision. Olga’s story is told and retold from different perspectives, introducing us to a woman of great strength and integrity whose opportunities are limited by the age in which she lives. It is also a reflection on our essential unknowability, even to those who love us best."