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The Dictator



Original Language: English | 321 pp. | May 2017

2 Seas Represents: Dutch and French (excluding Canada) Rights.

Rights Sold: Israel (Simanam/Yedioth).


An expertly drawn narrative, well paced and above all intriguing in its portrayal of an odd, little known episode in the Second World War.” –National Post

With a suspenseful build to a satisfying conclusion … The Dictator achieves something layered and morally complex.” –The Globe and Mail

“A young boy runs from the Nazis to save himself, leaving his family behind. The guilt he carries warps his life and the lives of all those he touches. The silences inside this eloquent novel are explosive. The characters are so real they seem to be part of one’s own family. A haunting, moving, original work.” —Rosemary Sullivan, author of Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

“This wonderful novel turns spiral of surprise after surprise, revealing both the known and unknown histories of one family in improbably brilliant light. It unfolds into a book of myth, the ancient and ever-contemporary myth about the high costs of escape and exile. Another spiral, the novel becomes a plain-spoken indictment of genocidal hatred and violence in every form. A tale about a brutish father and his sons, The Dictator offers a bewilderingly tender proposal: sometimes, it’s not too late.” —Karen Connelly, author of The Lizard Cage

From the author of The Bird Factory, a new novel about an estranged father and son forced together under the same roof—one losing his grip on reality and the other discovering a secret past that he may never fully understand.

Aaron, unhappy in middle age, must deal with the reverberations of the financial crisis, his increasingly alienated teenaged daughter and the sudden care of his father, Karl, a man he hardly knows, who is descending into Alzheimer’s.

Karl is a man who has survived by reinventing himself many times over. Blustering, arrogant, he is convinced that the world is intentionally trying to confuse him, not least his good-for-nothing son. Not like his other son, the one he left behind. If only Karl could remember his name, and where he is, Karl would go and find him.

With a deft touch and a wonderful ability to show the humorous in the tragic, David Layton has created a novel that explores the relationship between fathers and sons, and how the events of the past translate down through generations. Told from the alternating perspectives of Karl and Aaron, and travelling from present-day Toronto to a postwar settlement of Jewish immigrants in the Dominican Republic, The Dictator is at turns funny, poignant and insightful.