Riverhead Books has acquired the U.S. rights to three books by novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature.
First published by Bloomsbury in the U.K. last September, Afterlives will be published by Riverhead on August 23 of next year. The novel, the publisher said, is "a sweeping, multi-generational saga of displacement, loss, and love" set against the backdrop of the violent colonization of East Africa. Riverhead will also newly publish two backlist titles by Gurnah: By the Sea and Desertion, first released in 2001 by the New Press and 2005 by Pantheon, respectively. No publication dates were announced for the titles.
The deal augurs a rare opportunity for American readers to get their hands on books by Gurnah. Typically, the awarding of a Nobel Prize in Literature results in a boost to sales for the laureate's books and their publishers. But many of Gurnah's novels had gone out of print, and rights had reverted to the author. By the Sea and Desertion are two such titles, as is Paradise, Gurnah's 1994 novel; New Press publisher Ellen Adler told PW earlier this month that it will go back to print with that title "immediately" with digital reprints.
Represented by Peter Straus of RCW Literary Agency, U.S. rights to Afterlives and North American rights to By the Sea and Desertion were sold to Riverhead v-p and editorial director Rebecca Saletan.