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Winning in Rome (Vaincre à Rome)

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Original Language: French | 176 pp. | August 2019

2 Seas represents: Dutch, Nordic and North American rights.

LITERARY FICTION

Saturday 10 September 1960, Rome Olympics: the marathon is due to be run in the heart of the Eternal City. Sixty-nine competitors, but just one winner. And it is in the head of the runner who will ascend to the highest step on the podium that we find ourselves for a journey lasting 2 hours, 15 minutes and 16 seconds.

Not content with breaking the world record on Italian soil twenty years after Mussolini invaded Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian foot soldier Abebe Bikila is going to be running barefoot. ‘Winning in Rome would be like winning a thousand times’, in the opinion of Haile Selassie. Winning barefoot would be like winning while playing in the dust of Debre Zeit.

In the midst of decolonisation and the dismantling of European empires, an African shepherd wins the gold medal and brings glory to an entire continent.

Sylvain Coher infuses her language with the rhythm, movements, accelerations and endorphins of a long-distance race as it gradually builds up to the final sprint.

Born in 1971, Sylvain Coher divides his time between Paris and Nantes. Resident artist at the Villa Médicis from 2005 to 2006, he has published Hors saison (2011), Carénage (2011), Nord-nord-ouest (2015; Prix Ouest-France / Étonnants Voyageurs) and Trois cantates policières (2015) with Actes Sud.