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THE NAKED DON’T FEAR THE WATER by Matthieu Aikins

Matthieu Aikins credit: Kiana Hayeri

Fitzcarraldo Editions has acquired Matthieu Aikins’ debut The Naked Don’t Fear the Water: A Journey Through the Refugee Underground, about Aikins’ journey undercover on the migrant trail from Kabul to Europe in 2016. Fitzcarraldo Editions will publish in February 2022, simultaneously with Harper in the US.

In 2016, a young Afghan driver and translator named Omar makes the heart-wrenching choice to flee his war-torn country, saying goodbye to Laila, the love of his life, without knowing when they might be reunited again. He is one of millions of refugees who leave their homes that year. Matthieu Aikins, a journalist living in Kabul, decides to follow his friend. In order to do so, he must leave his own passport and identity behind to go underground on the refugee trail with Omar. Their odyssey across land and sea from Afghanistan to Europe brings them face to face with the people at heart of the migration crisis: smugglers, cops, activists, and the men, women and children fleeing war in search of a better life. As setbacks and dangers mount for the two friends, Matthieu is also drawn into the escape plans of Omar’s entire family, including Maryam, the matriarch who has fought ferociously for her children’s survival.

Matthieu Aikins is a journalist currently based in Kabul and has reported from Afghanistan and the Middle East since 2008. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, and has won numerous honors, including the George Polk and Livingston awards. He is a past fellow at Type Media Center, New America, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the American Academy in Berlin. Matthieu grew up in Nova Scotia, and has a master’s degree in Near Eastern Studies from New York University. The Naked Don’t Fear the Water is his first book.

Sales & Marketing Executive (Full-Time)

Fitzcarraldo Editions is recruiting a Sales and Marketing Executive to join our growing team based in Deptford, south-east London. The Sales and Marketing Executive will work closely with the publisher, associate publisher, publicity director and publishing executive to manage sales and marketing for Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Responsibilities will include:

– developing marketing assets (including AIs and catalogues);
– implementing and managing marketing campaigns for print, ebook and audiobooks; 
– maintaining and updating Fitzcarraldo Editions’ metadata via our Booksonix account;
– overseeing Fitzcarraldo Editions’ Amazon and Bookshop.org accounts, and optimizing online listings;  
– managing relationships with booksellers;
– developing Fitzcarraldo Editions’ digital presence through our website, consumer newsletter and social media accounts;
– overseeing and developing direct web sales and subscriptions;
– working closely with our independent sales team and distributors (GBS, Consortium) to improve the sale and distribution of Fitzcarraldo Editions’ titles around the world. 

The position will suit someone able to work as part of a small team but also willing to use their initiative, with good communication and organization skills, an aptitude for using data, an ability to work well under pressure, and good attention to detail. The ideal candidate will have some sales and/or marketing experience in publishing or a similar industry, be enthusiastic about selling and marketing books, have an interest in digital culture and technology, and enthusiasm for the Fitzcarraldo Editions list.

This is a full-time position paid at £25,000 per annum with a three-month probationary period, starting as soon as possible. This role is usually based in our office in Deptford, but will involve some remote working initially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

To apply, please send your CV and cover letter to jobs@fitzcarraldoeditions.com by 20 August 2021. Interviews will be held soon afterwards. 

YOU HAVE NOT YET BEEN DEFEATED by Alaa Abd el-Fattah

photo credit: Nariman el-Mofty

Fitzcarraldo Editions will publish Egyptian political prisoner Alaa Abd el-Fattah’s You Have Not Yet Been Defeated in the UK on 20 October 2021.

Alaa Abd el-Fattah, 39, is arguably the most high profile political prisoner in Egypt, if not the Arab world. A leading
figure among the young technologists and bloggers of the 2000s he rose to international prominence during the
revolution of 2011. A fiercely independent thinker who fuses politics and technology in powerful prose, an activist whose ideas represent a global generation which has only known struggle against a failing system, a public intellectual with the rare courage to offer personal, painful honesty, Alaa’s written voice came to symbolize much of what was fresh, inspiring and revolutionary about the uprisings that have defined the last decade.

Alaa has been in prison for most of the last seven years and many of the pieces collected here were smuggled out of his cell. From theses on technology, to theories of history, to painful reflections on the meaning of prison, his voice in thesepages – arranged by family and friends – cuts as sharply relevant, as dangerous, as ever.

Alaa Abd el-Fattah is an Egyptian writer, technologist and political activist. He is currently being held in indefinite
detention in Egypt. He was a central figure in the blogging movement of the early 2000s, a vanguard of free speech and radical discourse that would become one of the catalysts of the 2011 revolution. Committed to using both on-the-ground activism and online platforms to push an uncompromising political discourse, Alaa was 24 when he was first arrested under Hosni Mubarak. Since then he has been prosecuted and arrested by the three other Egyptian regimes of his lifetime. After the coup d’etat of 2013, he was among the principal targets of the counter-revolution and has been held in the regime’s prisons since then.

Publishing internship (6-month placement)

Fitzcarraldo Editions is currently recruiting for a 6-month publishing internship through the DWP Kickstart scheme, paid at the London Living Wage. Providing support to Fitzcarraldo Editions’ staff, the publishing intern will be involved in every aspect of the publishing process, including editorial, production, publicity, marketing, foreign rights and general office administration. The position will suit someone able to work as part of a small team but also willing to use their initiative and work on their own. Attention to detail and an interest in contemporary literature are essential.

Suitable candidates must be aged 16-24, based in London, currently be claiming Universal Credit and are required to apply through local Job Centres following a referral from their Work Coach. Deadline for applications: 28 April 2021.

Anyone interested should speak to your Work Coach as soon as possible, quoting the postcode (SE8 3DX / SE1), as well as the job title and organisation.

OWLISH by Dorothy Tse, translated by Natascha Bruce

credit: Dorothy Tse


Fitzcarraldo Editions’ associate publisher Tamara Sampey-Jawad has acquired UK & Commonwealth ex Canada rights to Owlish, the first novel by Dorothy Tse – one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated writers – from Kelly Falconer at the Asia Literary Agency. Ethan Nosowsky and Anni Liu at Graywolf Press will publish simultaneously in the US in spring 2023. The novel will be translated by PEN Heim-winner Natascha Bruce, and is Fitzcarraldo’s first Chinese-language acquisition.


Unfulfilled in his marriage and his career, middle-aged Professor Q embarks on a doomed love affair with a doll called Alice. Obsessed with his new love, he fails to notice that sinister forces are encroaching on his city –  until the security of his own life is called into question. Set in an alternate Honk Kong, Owlish is a boldly inventive wake-up call, forcing readers to confront the perils of apathy, complacency and indifference.


One of the founders of the Hong Kong literary magazine Fleurs des lettres, Dorothy Tse currently lives in Hong Kong, where she teaches creative writing at Hong Kong Baptist University.  Her awards include the Hong Kong Book Prize, Hong Kong Biennial Award for Chinese Literature, Taiwan’s Unitas New Fiction Writers’ Award, and the Hong Kong Award for Creative Writing in Chinese. Dorothy has published five short-story collections in Chinese, and has garnered attention in English since the 2014 publication of her collection Snow and Shadow (translated by Nicky Harman; longlisted for 2015 Best Translated Book Award). With translator Natascha Bruce, Dorothy was a winner of the 2019 Words Without Borders Poems in Translation Prize.

Lynn Gallagher’s Postcards by Jeremy Cooper


In Bolt from the Blue, Jeremy Cooper, the winner of the 2018 Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize, charts the relationship between a mother and daughter over the course of thirty-odd years. In October 1985, Lynn moves down to London to enrol at Saint Martin’s School of Art, leaving her mother behind in a suburb of Birmingham. Their relationship is complicated, and their primary form of contact is through the letters, postcards and emails they send each other periodically, while Lynn slowly makes her mark on the London art scene. Here, Jeremy Cooper takes us through some of the postcards that appear in the novel.

[p.245] Carla Cruz’s postcard ‘To be an Artist in Portugal is an Act of Faith’, 2003

All my books, sixteen or more publications to date, novels and non-fiction, are centred on subjects I know and care about. In the case of Bolt from the Blue, the world inhabited by Lynn Gallagher is personally familiar to me, her progress as a young artist in London from the mid 1980s till the death of her mother in 2018 is informed by my friendship with artists of her generation, several of whom are named as themselves in the novel. Although I did not think of this when settling down to plan the book, in the course of writing it I decided to lend Lynn one of my more recent key interests: the collection of artists’ postcards. Being an artist, it soon became clear that Lynn would need also be the maker of some of the postcards she sent to her mother over the years, and instead of inventing spurious and possibly inadequate works I pretended it was she who created the examples from my collection. For instance, the painting on the Gordon Matta-Clark postcard described on page seventy-three of the novel is in fact the work of a young Spanish artist called Cristina Garrido, an MA graduate from Wimbledon College of Art, in a technique she used in another of her manipulated postcards, part of my gift in 2019 to the British Museum.

Every postcard sent by Lynn actually exists. As a way of communicating Lynn’s politics, I mostly selected on her behalf commercially printed cards from the political section of my collection, which is in the process of preparation for a substantial exhibition planned for Tate Liverpool. Some of these postcards, particularly the outstanding body of work published by Leeds Postcards between 1979 and 1996, were printed in relatively large numbers and, being easy enough to find, appear in several of my exhibitions. Paul Morton’s great Thatcher card [p.42] and Richard Scott’s graphic I Don’t Give A Shit What Your House Is Worth [p.15] were both illustrated in the catalogue which Thames & Hudson published of my British Museum show The World Exists to be Put on a Postcard. Spare examples of these two Leeds Postcards will also go to Liverpool. Another show I am working on, of artists’ portrait postcards, is planned for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and will include a rare postcard image of the avant-garde American performer Vito Acconci [p.118] – he is one of Lynn’s ‘favourite artists’, and one of mine too. Already fixed for 2023/24 is an exhibition of European artists’ postcards at the Dresden Kupferstich Kabinett, of the same size and scope as the British Museum show, resulting in the permanent gift by me to Dresden of another thousand cards, including the artist Carla Cruz’s postcard To be an Artist in Portugal is an Act of Faith [p.245].

[p.227] The most recent of the postcards, Jonathan Horowitz’s anti-Trump diatribe, was in fact not yet made when I describe Lynn’s Mum sending it on January 2016 from Spain to her daughter in London. The publishers, Primary Information of New York, produced a series of these polemical postcards, stating that they ‘see the need to double down on this form as a political space embedded with the urgency, diversity, and complexity of voices that are the hallmark of our times. Who better to do this than artists?’

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[p.18] The Guerrilla Girls collective of a fluctuating group of unnamed women artists was founded in New York in the mid-1980s and is still active today, hiding their identity by wearing guerrilla masks in public.. One of ten billboards presented by the Public Art Fund in 1991, this one was sited on West Side Highway at 48th Street, New York.

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[p.106] This Leeds Postcard, published in 1984, strongly represents the hundreds of postcards they made for trades unions and other left-wing groups, printed on the reverse: ‘NALGO, Britain’s biggest white collar trade union, is campaigning for equal pay for work of equal value.’ Jo Morris’ design was originally published the year before in her book No More Peanuts: Evaluation of Women’s Work.

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[p.69] Gender and sexuality were standard subjects in political postcards, seldom more poignant than in the set designed by Aboud-Sodano and published in the mid-1990s for free distribution to combat AIDS by the Terrence Higgins Trust. The Irish designer Alan Aboud made his name with work for Paul Smith.

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[p.79] The main body of postcard work in my museum exhibits is of cards designed by artists for significant shows, such as this rare early YBA survival, an invitation to the opening on 20 May 1998 at Kölnischer Kunstverein. The Goldsmiths-trained artists Sarah Lucas and Angus Fairhurst were living together at the time and sharing a studio in Clerkenwell.

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[p.42] The founder in Yorkshire of Hot-Frog Graphics, Paul Morton, designed a number of Leeds Postcards, this dot-to-dot card of Mrs Thatcher in 1984, captioned on the reverse: ‘Thatcher Therapy. Take a broad, black, water-based felt-tip pen and follow the dots until Mrs Thatcher’s face is obliterated. Wipe clean and it’s ready for the next go. In no time at all you’ll be looking forward to starting the day with fresh vigour.’

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[p.118] Vito Acconci, a lifelong radical, used this 1959 image of himself in the marines on an invitation postcard to his solo show Rehearsals for Architecture in 2003 at the gallery Kenny Schachter/Rove in New York. Acconci said of architecture: ‘Maybe you can sneak something in. You can sneak something in that maybe gives people a chance to think.’

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[p.94] This is another of those postcards which Lynn claimed to have made herself but is, in this case, one of an ongoing series by Duncan Wooldridge begun in 2007, in which he meticulously removes with an India rubber the writing in a message on commercial postcards made from Gillian Wearing’s photographs of 1992-3. Standing in a shopping precinct in Peckham, South London, the tattooed man had written the message CERTIFIED AS MILDLY INSANE

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[p.30] Like other cartoonists of the period, Angela Martin worked on groups of themes and characters, most of them feminist in essence, publishing postcards with The Women’s Press, Cath Tate Cards and, most frequently, Leeds Postcards. Another postcard of Martin’s ironical Famous Radical Feminist Sayings, also published by Leeds Postcards in 1994, read ‘The personal is … IKEA’.

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Bolt from the Blue publishes 27 January 2021

Esther Kinsky and Caroline Schmidt on gardens

While in lockdown, Esther Kinsky, author of River and Grove, and Caroline Schmidt, translator of Grove from German to English, have both been focusing on gardening. Here they share one of their email exchanges about gardening and photographs of their successes.

(EK to CS, May 29 2020)
How is your little cherry tree doing that seemed like a shivering waif in the March sunlight? One of my cherry trees in the orto (planted last year) has five immaculate cherries to show for itself. The fruit tree miracle is my peach tree, also planted last year, which is full of little flat vineyard peaches. 

But the flowers! The first wave of rose bloom is already over, and unfortunately my great project of having an old English climbing rose (nicely named ‘Shropshire Lass’) intertwine itself with a late blooming violet Clematis on the rose arch hasn’t worked out, they’ve just missed each other, the tips are touching, but the lass has finished her first bloom (rosy white, as befits the name) while the clematis is only just coming out and looking a bit stark with nothing but the thin black iron of the rose arch to match its deep violet. Maybe next year they shall wed.

My seven English roses have all survived my learning curve here in Italy, some are thriving more than others. Roses are such strange creatures, they are characters really, sometimes they make me think of cats because they also do as they please. But probably I’m just an impatient and inconsistent gardener, too greedy for beauty. Apart from that, I’m almost aghast at the size and copiousness of my snapdragon (up to my shoulders), Sweet William, and Nigella, and Echinacea. The former two come from a 70 cent Lidl seed packet, I have to confess (I hate Lidl and usually limit my shopping there to cat food, but the seeds have proved to be quite something). I really recommend Nigella, these wispy flowers in so many shades of blue, very undemanding, after the blossom they form pretty seeds pods, and the seeds make a wonderful spice (black cumin).

Last year’s English poppies have self seeded and are now, probably after some cross fertilisation with the wild red poppies, developing the most amazing colours and colour effects, I attach a few photos, they are so delicate and short lived, and that’s why their beauty is so touching. I hope we’ll manage an Olson week this year and you’ll see the garden.

Did I tell you how much I like your project to offer a kind of collaborative residency? Maybe I can come and contribute something one day, and write a text about Altfriedland, the birds, the Wende.. But I’m not good at building work, so you’d have to find something else for me. Sewing curtains, or gardening. A week of weeding! Not such a nightmare in the sandy soil of the Mark, as Martin used to say. Apparently the Mark Brandenburg was called the sandpit of Europe in the 18th/19th century. (The Friuli is charmingly named the pissoir of Europe because of the precipitation). Considering the martial inclinations of the Prussians the name is rather deceptive.

 

(CS to EK, June 2 2020)

Your flowers are gorgeous, and you’ve convinced me to take a trip to Lidl the next time I’m in Seelow.

Helga says it was a bad year for peaches. She is 80 and lives alone. Every evening she sits down on her veranda and says to her garden: ich weiss du bringst mich um, aber ich liebe dich!

Whenever I water the garden, I imagine the neighbours are rolling their eyes, thinking: there she goes again, giving the weeds a drink! But being a negligent gardener has its advantages. After avoiding eye contact with our blackberry bushes for days, which were drowning in stinging nettle, I was pleasantly surprised to find they had sprouted three squash plants, as big as squirrels. The seeds must have come from the compost.

And when you don’t have a lawn, you have other things, like Storchschnabel. The seedpods are nutty, supposedly; they tasted green to me. Still, I appreciate that the name invites you to see them as beaks.

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