Scribe has snapped up Mr B's bookseller Jessica Gaitán Johannesson's debut novel in a two-book deal.
The indie publisher's editorial and publicity manager Molly Slight acquired world English language rights to How We Are Translated, with a second book to follow, from Lisa Baker at Aitken Alexander. Scribe will publish in the UK, Australia, and the US in February 2021.
Taking place over the course of a week, How We Are Translated is a "tightly constructed exploration of language, culture, and identity", said Scribe. The novel follows Swedish immigrant Kristin who works at an immersive historical exhibition playing a Viking where she is not allowed to speak any English, even on her breaks.
The synopsis reads: "One day she returns to her home in Edinburgh to discover that her Brazilian-born Scottish boyfriend Ciaran has isolated himself in their flat to learn Swedish. He has covered all of their possessions with post-it notes in Swedish and refuses to speak any English to her. So now she is alone in her head, with nobody to talk to. As this young couple are forced to reconcile with the thing that they are both avoiding talking about, they must also confront what it means to live both inside and outside a culture, to be on both sides and neither at the same time."
A bookseller at Mr B's Emporium in Bath since August 2015, Johannesson is an activist working for urgent action on the climate and ecological crisis. Growing up with two first languages and writing in a third, Johannesson’s writing is permeated by questions of belonging, said Scribe.
Johannesson said: "How We Are Translated is about transformation, written at a moment of fundamental change. When I began the book, I was troubled by the widespread commercialisation of culture and identity that I was seeing. Since then, the deeper understanding of our broken world and the climate crisis have led me both to become an activist and to re-evaluate my own choices in terms of motherhood and the future, a core theme in How We Are Translated."
Slight added: "Jess is an innovative writer with serious literary ambitions, and her writing is like nothing I have read before. Her language is strange and sometimes even jarring; it forces you to pause and think more deeply about language itself, how it can be interpreted, misunderstood, or even weaponised. I am convinced that this book will be a serious contender for literary prizes, and am thrilled to be working with Jess on both this and on her next book."
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