An “extraordinary” debut novel, The Parisian, from 27-year-old London-born writer Isabella Hammad is making waves with 11 international territories sold.
Jonathan Cape is publishing the historical novel, about a “young Palestinian dreamer” travelling the world between the First and Second World Wars, on 11th April next year. Cape’s publishing director Michal Shavit snapped up UK and Commonwealth rights from Georgia Garrett, agent at Rogers, Coleridge and White (RCW).
The Parisian has also sold to 11 other territories including in the US to Grove Atlantic, with publication also in April, as well as in Denmark and Sweden through pre-empts. The novel has sold at auction in Germany, Greece and Spain with other international deals in China, Holland, Italy, Norway and Romania.
The level of global deals is unusual for a literary debut, The Bookseller understands, and the 576-page novel has drawn endorsements from authors such as Zadie Smith, who called it “a sublime reading experience”.
The Parisian follows a young Palestinian dreamer Midhat Kamal who sets out to find himself as the First World War shatters families, destroys friendships and kills lovers, the synopsis reads. Kamal travels across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.
Hammad, aged 27, “delicately unpicks the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era,” Cape said, such as “the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War”. The book is billed as “an intensely human story amidst a global conflict... a historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice”.
The author studied at Oxford University as well as Harvard. She won the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction for her story 'Mr. Can’aan'. Her writing has appeared in Conjunctions and the Paris Review.
Shavit told The Bookseller: “Isabella Hammad's extraordinary story about a Palestinian man in a hostile Western world in the first half of the twentieth century is revelatory in its exploration of being the outsider - and what it means to return home. It reads like the best of the classics and the most moving of love stories, and we could not be more proud to be publishing this phenomenal new voice.”
The Parisian will be published by Cape in hardback retailing at £14.99.