Hamish Hamilton has triumphed in a five-way auction for a “ground-breaking and much-needed” blend of memoir and nature writing by Noreen Masud.
Commissioning editor Hermione Thompson bought UK and Commonwealth rights, including audio, from Matt Turner at Rogers, Coleridge & White. A Flat Place will publish in spring 2023.
The synopsis states: “A Flat Place is a love song to the underappreciated beauty and the solace of flat landscapes. Its author has been drawn to these spaces her whole life, prompted by the complex trauma she sustained as a child, but her relationship with them is also uneasy in many ways. Through a series of journeys across flatlands around the UK—from Orford Ness to Orkney—Noreen Masud offers an electrifying account of a landscape that is both post-traumatic and post-colonial. Stripping back the certainties which hold these spaces together, what emerges is a vivid and disorienting mosaic of memory, an enriched understanding of inheritance of many kinds, and an accounting for the various spectres which haunt British landscapes, disturbing that seemingly fixed and tranquil, heavily self-mythologised realm.”
Masud grew up in Lahore “in an isolated and frightening home”, before moving to Britain as a teenager. Her publisher explained: “She has never returned to Pakistan and yet it remains at the edges of her vision: present as absence, as gaps in memory, as a heavy numbness and dread which she has struggled to name or interpret. These feelings are symptoms of complex PTSD: a persistent and at times profoundly distressing psychological condition which Noreen describes with intimate, poetic clarity. Embarking on a search for spaces to comprehend her trauma, seeking out landscapes with a stark and mysterious openness which gives shape to her experience, she makes a moving case for the resilience and validity of a life lived with wounds which cannot be healed.”
She is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of English Studies at Durham University. Her work focuses on “resistant modes of writing” and on writers who disrupt narratives about what good literature should be or do. In 2020, she was named as one of the BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s 10 New Generation Thinkers. Her first monograph, Hard Language, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2021. A Flat Place will be her first trade book.
She said: “This is a story I've been struggling to tell for half my life. That Hamish Hamilton is supporting me to tell it is, frankly, surreal. Above all I hope it helps other people, with or without cPTSD or postcolonial trauma or disrupted attachment, feel a bit less alone.”
Thompson said: “I feel so excited about this project and the brand new possibilities it opens on how to engage with landscape, both in person and on the page. A Flat Place is an examination of estrangement, in many senses of the word; a painful and yet a richly generative space for storytelling. And I feel sure that Noreen’s account of PTSD specifically will start many important conversations. I haven’t seen the subject treated in literature before—it is just starting to be understood by the medical establishment and will strike a powerful chord of recognition with readers, many of whom will know someone affected by the condition.”
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