Square Peg, an imprint of Vintage, is to publish Our Story, which combines a tale of a 60-year-old love with an "amazing illustrated history of China".
Publishing director Rosemary Davidson and Pantheon/Knopf editor Tim O’Connell jointly bought world English rights to the title by Rao Pingru from Cullen Stanley at Janklow & Nesbit Associates on behalf of Bardon Chinese Media and Guangxi University Press (NA).
Since Frankfurt Book Fair in October, Janklow has sold rights to Seuil in France, Bompiani in Italy, Salamandra in Spain, MillBooks in Korea and Hollands Diep (Robbert Ammerlaan) in the Netherlands.
Our Story was first published in China by Guangxi Normal University Press and has sold more than 250,000 copies, according to the publisher.
The book is a graphic memoir of the love story between Pingru and his wife of 60 years, Meitang. When Meitang died in 2008, Pingru was overcome by grief and to memorialise the love, he began at the age of 88 to illustrate their life together.
Pingru was an artillery soldier in the Imperial Army and had fought at the battle of Xiangxi in 1945 against the Japanese. Rao and Meitang met for the first time in 1946 when he was on leave from the army. Pingru draws from memory and includes scenes of his childhood, stories Meitang told him and their wedding day.
He also illustrates the 22-years they spent apart when he was sent to a labour camp to be reformed. For the next 22-years he would see Meitang and his children only once a year, for Chinese New Year.
"But his love for Meitang never diminished," the publisher said. "Like millions of other ordinary Chinese people, Meitang and Rao survived war, famine, incarceration, separation, re-education and illness. And, like so many couples, they disagreed, quarrelled and made up, raised children, and grew old together. This is a love story, but it is also an amazing illustrated history of China."
Davidson said: “This is an exquisite graphic memoir. Rao Pingru and his wife Meitang’s love story encompasses the charmingly domestic and big and small events in China over 90 years. It is quite simply unique."
Square Peg will publish Our Story simultaneously with the US in spring 2017.