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Author interviews

The Last Brother and the Gray Wolf

February 14, 2011

Last February we published Geoffrey Strachan’s translation The Last Brother by Natacha Appanah, a young French-Mauritian writer of considerable talent who won the FNAC Fiction Prize for the French edition, also shortlisted for the Prix Femina and Prix Medicis. The Last Brother gathered a string of excellent reviews, and was relased in paperback just a few days ago. The paperback’s publication coincided with its realease over the Atlantic, where it is already causing quite a stir.

Graywolf Press

Graywolf Press is an independent not-for-profit publishing company based in Minnesota.  It is now in its thirty-seventh year of publishing and remains committed to fostering creative and imaginative writing that reflects America’s diverse cultural makeup. Recently, were delighted to welcome them as co-pubilshers for two of our translations: The Last Brother and Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen (translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, released here in May).

Judging by how often it was mentioned on Twitter, I gained the impression that the good folk at Graywolf were quite excited about Appanah’s wonderful, lyrical little novel. So I asked Marketing and Publicity Manager Erin Kottke to fill me in:

I’ve been telling everyone who will listen to me how this is one of my favorite books we’ve ever published—and, for that matter, one of my favorite books of all-time, not just Graywolf’s—which is a bold thing to say. I love all of our books, but I can’t tell reviewers and booksellers that “no, this one is my favorite now” about every book, because they won’t trust my opinion if it’s always the same. But I feel quite confident about the universal appeal of The Last Brother; my love for the book comes from the reader side of me, not the publicist side. The love between Raj and David is just so sweet, so innocent, and so pure—I’ve been calling it “human,” though perhaps “humane” is the better word—that it’s impossible not to be deeply moved by their story. The Last Brother may be a slender novel, but it packs an emotional wallop that lingers long after you’ve finished the book. It’s one that has stuck with me like few others have.

Perhaps because the novel struck such a deep chord with me as a reader, I’ve found it particularly gratifying that independent booksellers read the advance copies of the book I sent to them and have responded with great enthusiasm. Several influential book buyers—including Paul Yamazaki from City Lights in San Francisco, which was named Publishers Weekly’s 2010 Bookseller of the Year—have given us blurbs for the book, which have in turn generated interest from other renowned indies across the country. Bookstores are upping their orders, and word-of-mouth is spreading. It’s been an honor to be a part of it.

What the Critics Are Saying

“Appanah’s is a beautiful new voice, one that, like David’s, makes “a kind of music.” If the song it sings is sad, well, it’s all the more lifelike for that.” Dalia Sofer, New York Times

The Last Brother is that rare book that’s able to explore grand and sweeping themes of history with a masterfully light touch” Anderson Tepper, Words Without Borders

“With the lightest of touches, the author movingly conveys a child discovering his own mysteries, then navigating those of a baffling, larger world.” Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

Read an interview with Natacha Appanah by Anderson Tepper for Tablet Magazine

We look forward to working with Graywolf again, both with Child Wonder and in the future. The Last Brother is out in UK paperback now.


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