Helena Janeczek
A novel, Guanda, September 2017, 330 pages

Foreign rights: viviana.vuscovich@maurispagnol.it

English sample available
18 editions – 180,000 copies sold

Premio Strega 2018
Premio Bagutta 2018
Shortlisted for Premio Campiello

“Janeczek applies the teachings of Walter Benjamin to photography and to the memory of the defeated. The result is a tight, fragmented and fascinating prose and a narrative structure that verges on being a masterpiece.”L’Espresso

“Helena is a real writer, attentive to the fable but obsessed with historical reality.” Roberto Saviano

The true story of Gerda Taro, a photojournalist killed during the Spanish Civil War at the age of twenty-six. A free, joyful woman who challenged the darkness of the 1930s, rediscovered through the eyes of those who loved her.

August 1937. A sea of red flags makes its way through Paris. It is Gerda Taro’s funeral procession. She was the first photographer to die on the battlefield, who that very day would have turned twenty-seven. Robert Capa in the front row is devastated: he is the one who taught her to use her Leica camera, and together they covered the Spanish War and were willing to die for a country that was not theirs in the name of freedom. In the crowd are all the people who were somehow linked to Gerda: among them is Willy Chardack, her eternal loyal knight, to whom the irresistible girl preferred Georg Kutitzkes, now fighting in the International Brigades. Decades later, these two make an intercontinental phone call that triggers the creation of a multi-faceted novel based on original sources with Gerda as its beating heart. It is her heartbeat that weaves together faraway places and times, giving life to the Polaroids taken by these young adults during the 30s, whilst facing the economic depression, the rise of Nazism, and the hostility towards refugees, which in France targeted above all Jews and leftwing supporters like them.

 

 

Helena Janeczek

Helena Janeczek was born in Munich, but she’s been living in Italy for the past thirty years. She made her debut with a collection of poetry, Ins Freie (1989). In 1997 she published Lezioni di tenebra, her first work of fiction written in Italian. She won Premio Bagutta Opera Prima and Premio Berto, also receiving relevant acclaim from other writers such as Lalla Romano and Erri De Luca. After that comes Cibo (2002; 2019), a fictional mosaic of stories that examine the happy or difficult relationship that women (and men) have with food. With Le rondini di Montecassino (2010) she won Premio Napoli, Premio Pisa and Premio Sandro Onofri. Janeczek partecipated in many collective works: Nell’occhio di chi guarda. Scrittori e registi di fronte all’immagine (2014), Festa del Perdono. Cronache dai decenni inutili (2014), Milano (2015), La formazione della scrittrice (2015), Dylan Skyline. Dodici racconti per Bob Dylan (2015), Il racconto onesto (2015), Con gli occhi aperti. 20 autori per 20 luoghi (2016) e L’agenda ritrovata. Sette racconti per Paolo Borsellino (2017). Her short stories La minaccia fantasma and Pochi gradi di separazione are available on e-book. La ragazza con la Leica (2017) is her fourth narrative work, and it earned her Premio Bagutta 2018 and Premio Strega 2018.
Her books have been translated in English, French, German, Spanish and Polish.
Helena Janeczek is the co-founder of the literary webzine Nazione Indiana. She contributed to Nuovi Argomenti, Alfabeta2 and Lo Straniero and to many newspapers such as la Repubblical’UnitàIl Sole 24 Ore and Pagina 99. She has worked in publishing as a consultant on foreign fiction. She coordinates the festival SI Scrittrici Insieme in Gallarate, where she lives with her son and two cats.

“Janeczek applies the teachings of Walter Benjamin to photography and to the memory of the defeated. The result is a tight, fragmented and fascinating prose and a narrative structure that verges on being a masterpiece.”L’Espresso

“Helena is a real writer, attentive to the fable but obsessed with historical reality.” Roberto Saviano

“An exciting portrait (…) that goes beyond the usual clichés of traditional biographies.” Marie Claire

“A single novel for a whole generation.” la Repubblica

“Ce livre est comme une planche-contact : si l’on s’y perd parfois, on y voit évoluer, dans les témoignages de ses amis, une jeune femme intrépide, passionnée, « agile comme un lévrier, résistante comme le cuir et parfois dure comme l’acier », séduisante et déterminée, silhouette émancipée au sourire lumineux, et dont les photos ont tout de même fini par révéler le talent.” Gilles Heuré, Télérama

“De ce tourbillon, finit par émerger la «valise mexicaine», pleine de négatifs de Capa et Taro, qui remit sur le devant de la scène photographique l’étourdissante Gerda.” Frédérique Fanchette, Libération

“Ce roman rend justice à cette jeune Allemande venue à Paris dans les années 1930 pour fuir le nazisme et ressuscite une époque bouillonnante où le monde s’apprête à basculer.” Femme Actuelle Senior

“Évoquant la photographie, l’artiste italienne Tina Modotti disait que lorsque celle-ci «ne s’oriente que vers le présent et s’appuie sur ce qui existe devant l’objectif de l’appareil, elle s’affirme comme le moyen le plus incisif pour enregistrer la vie réelle dans toutes ses manifestations.» C’est exactement le projet de ce roman, assurément l’un des plus beaux de la rentrée littéraire 2018.” Gérard de Cortanze, Historia

Rights sold:
Denmark: Palomar
France: Actes Sud
Germany: Berlin Verlag
The Netherlands: De Bezige Bij
Romania: Art
Russia: Knizhniki
World English: Europa Editions
World Spanish: Castilian/Tusquets, Catalan/Grup 62

 

Italian and international editions

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