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La Superba

Author:

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Original Language: Dutch | 348 pp. | 2013

2 Seas Represents: French & Portuguese Rights

Rights sold: USA (Deep Vellum), Germany (Aufbau), Macedonia (Antolog), Italy (Nutrimenti), Romania (Casa Cărții de Știință), Afrikaans (Protea, Croatia (VBZ)

English translation available

Winner of the Libris Literature Prize 2014

Over 75,000 copies sold

De Arbeiderspers

LITERARY FICTION

La Superba is the most emblematic novel of modern Europe, an irresistible combination of migrant novel, perverse travel guide, and postmodern ode to the imagination that lovingly describes the labyrinthine and magical city that Pfeijffer calls home: Genoa, Italy, the city known as “La Superba” (“The Superb City”) for its beauty and rich history.

‘Emigrating is like writing a new novel, without yet knowing the plot, the ending, nor even the characters that will turn out to be crucial to the progress of the story,’ says Ilja Leonardo Pfeijffer, the self-confident ‘Italophile’ who addresses us in La Superba. In a long letter home he reports on his life as an explorer in Genoa and contrasts his fate with that of the dirt poor migrant workers from Africa who can barely keep their heads above water.

La Superba is more than a touching story about fortune seekers who fall through the cracks. The novel starts with the discovery, by the narrator, of a woman’s leg on the street. That leg will pop up repeatedly in his search for ‘the most beautiful girl in Genoa’, a quest that brings him into contact with the prostitutes, locals and outsiders of the port’s rougher districts and seaman’s bars. This is a pocket edition of Dante’s Inferno, written by an author who admits that he likes to exaggerate: ‘Let’s call it an exercise in style. But the fact that I exaggerate doesn’t mean what I say is untrue.’

Eventually the main character becomes hopelessly lost in his own fantasies, leaving his readers with the feeling they have been hallucinating while roaming through a metropolis. The destination was irrelevant; it was the journey that mattered. And anyone in danger of losing the thread could cling to the style of their guide, to those dynamic sentences full of depravity and high contemplation that Pfeijffer has produced in such quantities since his award-winning debut novel Rupert: A Confession (2002).

Classicist Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer (b. 1968) has published poetry, stage plays, essays, columns, travel accounts, stories, political satires and four novels written in the spirit of Rabelais. In Het grote baggerboek (The Big Book of Dredgings, 2004) and in Het ware leven, een roman (Real Life. A Novel, 2006) he played a game with world literature and divided the critics. La Superba (2014) showed Pfeijffer’s engaged side. It was received with unanimous enthusiasm and won him the Libris Literature Prize.