This post is also available in: العربية

AlMada, based in Baghdad, Iraq has bought world Arabic rights in Mexican-born writer Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive, her autobiographical novel based on her work with young migrants on the US-Mexico border which has just won the £30,000 Rathbones Folio Prize in the UK.

The Arabic deal is one of a number secured by Laurence Laluyaux at the RCW agency in London which has also seen the title sold in Argentina (Sigilo); Bulgaria (Colibri); Brazil (Companhia Das Letras); China (Horizon); Denmark (Grif); Finland (Gummerus); France (Editions de L’Olivier); Germany (Antje Kunstmann); Greece (Metaichmio); Hungary (Magveto); Italy (La Nuova Frontiera); Netherlands (Das Mag); Norway (Cappelen Damm); Poland (Pauza); Portugal (Bazarov); Romania (Black Button Books); Russia (Mann, Ivanov & Ferber; Spain and Latin America (Sexto Piso); Swede ( Ramus); and Turkey (Siren).

The critically acclaimed novel is published by Knopf in the US and by Fourth Estate in the UK.  Luiselli is the first woman to win the Rathbones Folio Prize since its inception in 2013.  The prize is “for all works of literature [fiction and non-fiction] written in English”. The chair of the judges, the poet Paul Farley, described the book as a “a genuinely original and bravura performance of a novel: a road trip, a documentary, a portrait of a family and of the American borderlands, and a journey into the idea of home and belonging… None of which even begins to do justice to this singular, teeming, extraordinary work, which is Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli”.

The novel begins with a family embarking on a road trip and culminates in an indictment of America’s immigration system. An unnamed husband and wife drive, with their children in the backseat, from New York City to Arizona, he seeking to record remnants of Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apache, she hoping to locate two Mexican girls last seen awaiting deportation at a detention centre.

Born in Mexico, Luiselli is the author of the book of essays Sidewalks and the novel Faces in the Crowd which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her 2015 novel The Story of My Teeth was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Best Translated Book Award, and won the Lost Angeles Times Prize for Best Fiction, and the Premio Metropolis Azul in Canada.

She began writing Lost Children Archive in 2014 “as a loudspeaker for all of [her] political rage” after having served as a court translator for children from Latin America involved in the migration crisis.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the awards evening in London took place online.  On receiving the prize, Luiselli said: “More than anything I am relieved, because giving a literary prize right now means that we believe in what we are doing.  It means that we believe in books as the vehicles for something much greater than us, something which will outlive us.”