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A debut novel by a British Palestinian woman born in the UK has already sold in 11 territories and is currently out on submission with several Arab publishers.
The Parisian is by 27-year-old Isabella Hammad and is set partly in Palestine during the time of the British mandate and partly in pre-Second World War Europe. It is about a young Palestinian dreamer, Midhat Kamal, who leaves his homeland to find himself.
The novel is being widely praised and will surely be a contender for prizes. The novelist Jonathan Safran Foer said: “The Parisian is a gripping historical novel, a poignant romance, and a revelatory family epoch. Above all, it is a generous gift.” Zadie Smith describes it as “a sublime reading experience: delicate, restrained, surpassingly intelligent, uncommonly poised and truly beautiful…” She added: “Isabella Hammad is an enormous talent and her book is a wonder.”
The novel has sold to Cape in the UK, Grove Atlantic in the US and was snapped up in Denmark and Sweden in pre-emptive deals. Hammad’s agent is Georgia Garrett at Rogers, Coleridge & White in London. Garrett sold the novel at auction in Germany, Greece and Spain, with other territories including China, Holland, Italy, Norway and Romania also secured.
Cape says: ‘Isabella Hammad delicately unpicks the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. The Parisian is historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice.”
Hammad, who lives in New York, read English Language and Literature at Oxford and was awarded a Kennedy Scholarship to Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2012. In the following year she received the Harper Wood Creative Writing Studentship from Cambridge University. She took a Masters in Fine Arts in in Fiction at New York University and in 2016-17 she was the Axinn Foundation NYU Writer-in-Residence.
Her writing has been published in various literary journals, including The Paris Review (2018), for which her short story ‘Mr Can’aan’ , which opens on the banks of the Jordan a week after the Six Day War, won the $10,000 2018 Plimpton Prize. Hammad says she came to graduate school in New York with “vague ambitions of becoming an academic.” But instead, she made her way to the Middle East for a year to begin work on a novel set in Palestine – a novel that would become The Parisian which will now be published simultaneously in the UK and US in April 2019.