John Murray will publish Jonathan Freedland’s first non-fiction title since 2005, The Escape Artist, which will tell the story of Rudolf Vrba, an Auschwitz escapee and survivor.
Joe Zigmond, editorial director at John Murray, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown, with US Rights sold to Sara Nelson at HarperCollins. The book is set to be published in spring 2022.
According to the publisher, Rudolf Vrba’s story has fascinated Freedland since he was young. The synopsis for the biography reads: "Vrba's daring escape from Auschwitz, by hiding in a wooden pile for three days, placed him among only a handful of Jews ever to flee the death camp and survive. Even more extraordinary than Vrba’s escape was the information he carried, and his shocking 30-page report revealing the truth of the death camps would find its way to FDR, Churchill and the Pope, eventually leading to the saving of over 200,000 Hungarian Jewish lives. But Vrba’s breath-taking journey did not end there: after the war, he escaped from communist Czechoslovakia in a midnight defection, fleeing first to Israel, then Britain, then Canada—constantly escaping, but never quite breaking free from the horrors he had witnessed and helped expose to the world."
Zigmond says: “From a standard-bearer of impassioned, trusted journalism comes this utterly riveting and awe-inspiring tale that throws new light on old narratives, and belongs among the classics of Holocaust history. The astonishing arc of Rudolf Vrba’s life plays to Jonathan’s moral heft as a journalist, and to his strengths as a multi-million copy selling novelist. An escape thriller, following the mission of one man whose survival will have implications for hundreds of thousands of lives: these are the ingredients of a gripping, historically significant non-fiction with a vast audience. At John Murray we are thrilled to be welcoming Jonathan’s unique non-fiction writing to the list.”
Freedland says: “I’m delighted that this story—which gripped me the moment I first heard it—has found such an enthusiastic home at John Murray. All the team there immediately grasped that the life of Rudolf Vrba is not only a true-life adventure story, marked by the most extraordinary courage, but also a parable of the life-and-death importance of truth, facts and knowledge, one with, I hope, urgent resonance for our own times.”
Freedland is a Guardian collumist and former foreign correspondent. He is the author of 11 books, two of them non-fiction: Bring Home the Revolution (Fourth Estate, 1998) and Jacob's Gift: A Journey into the Heart of Belonging (Hamish Hamilton, 2005). He has also written nine thrillers under the name Sam Bourne.