David Bezmozgis returns with debut novel
Fans of David Bezmozgis have been awaiting a follow-up to his hugely acclaimed debut collection Natasha and Other Stories for more than six years now, but the wait will soon be over. Next March, HarperCollins Canada will publish Bezmozgis’s debut novel, The Free World, which is being billed as an unofficial prequel to Natasha.
The multigenerational saga is set in 1978 Rome, where three generations of the a Russian-born Jewish family have landed after escaping their homeland. The family is forced to spend six months in limbo, waiting for word on where they might be able to settle. According to Bezmozgis’s Canadian publisher, Iris Tupholme, the characters could be the parents and grandparents of the characters in Natasha.
Like Natasha, the novel will be released simultaneously by U.S. publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux (the book’s primary editor is FSG’s Lorin Stein). According to Rob Firing, director of publicity and marketing at HarperCollins, the simultaneous release may present some challenges in terms of event bookings, but he points out that Bezmozgis made numerous appearances in Canada and the U.S. for Natasha, so there’s no reason to expect he won’t do so again. Indeed, Firing says that Bezmozgis has promised to hit the Canadian book circuit as hard as his schedule will allow.
The timing of The Free World couldn’t be better. Last June, Bezmozgis made The New Yorker’s much discussed 20 Under 40 list of the best young writers in the U.S. (Note to the editors of The New Yorker: Bezmozgis may spend a lot of time in Los Angeles, but he continues to maintain a home in Toronto.)
HarperCollins didn’t buy rights to Bezmozgis’s follow-up when purchasing Natasha, but the house did have right of first refusal. Tupholme landed the book, she says, by offering Bezmozgis a significant advance, “and deservedly so.”