Virago has pre-empted Seulmi Lee's debut 8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster, an "action-packed, playful and ambitious" novel about a North Korean female spy.
Anna Kelly, publishing director, bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Jenny Meyer at Jenny Meyer Literary Agency, on behalf of Nicki Richesin at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner via Wendy Sherman Associates. US rights were acquired at auction by Erin Wicks at Harper, and deals have closed in Italy, Spain, Greece and Romania. UK publication is slated for spring 2023.
Inspired by the story of the author’s great aunt, one of the oldest women to escape alone from North Korea, 8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster follows a North Korean female spy who assumes multiple identities in order to survive the most turbulent period in modern Korean history. The novel is structured in eight "lives", representing different stages in the protagonist’s life, and moves from World War II to the Korean War to a nursing home in contemporary South Korea.
Kelly said: "I was dazzled by the energy and originality on display in this moving, compelling and utterly distinctive work of fiction, and I am thrilled to announce that Virago will launch Seulmi Lee as a major international writer in 2023. The novel is intricately structured, full of doubles and reflections, like a vast hall of mirrors in which the reader never knows exactly where they are or what something is, before it is turned away and shown to be something, or someone, else. This story is rich in eye-opening, riveting historical detail, but the ideas it engages with – ideas about the self, identity, love, survival, storytelling, power; and how we narrate the past, bear witness and speak to trauma – could not be more timely or relevant to today’s cultural conversations."
Lee commented: "I met my literary idol, Margaret Atwood, through Virago. I still remember how the Virago paperback of The Blind Assassin felt in my hand, the rough texture of its beautiful light teal cover, and what was inside was even more magical. I've discovered the novels of so many other legendary authors through Virago, such as Daphne du Maurier, Sarah Waters, Marilynne Robinson and Patricia Highsmith. It feels surreal to join the ranks of such fierce authors, and it's such an honour to work with Virago and Anna Kelly."