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W by Steve Sem-Sandberg

Emöke Andersson Lipcsey, who translates into Hungarian, recommends a book based on the life of the historical figure Johann Christian Woyzeck. The author Steve Sem-Sandberg uses W.’s fate to paint a shocking, true picture of how the brutality of war can affect and warp the character of the individual.

The Translator's Choice

W is based on the life of the historical figure Johann Christian Woyzeck. It is the same story upon which German author Georg Büchner (1813–1837) based his Woyzeck, one of the most frequently performed plays in world literature.

That Woyzeck’s life story has inspired writers through the ages is no coincidence. After undergoing a long and public trial, the wigmaker and barber referred to ‘W.’ was sentenced to death and executed for the murder of his lover. Court records and forensic reports in the case raise larger questions about individual guilt and victimization – for W. is both wrongdoer and wronged. He is a murderer, but he is also a victim of the harsh environment in which he was raised and of historical circumstance, having fought in Russia as a soldier in Napoleon’s army.

Steve Sem-Sandberg uses W.’s fate to paint a shocking, true picture of how the brutality of war can affect and warp the character of the individual. It is a theme that, unfortunately, is all too relevant today.

About the Translator

Emöke Andersson Lipcsey is an author, translator, freelance journalist and musician. She has written two novels that have been published in Sweden: Haren slår en kullerbytta (The Hare Is Doing A Somersault, Korpen, 2020) and Taurus blogg (Taurus’ Blog, Ekström & Garay, 2022). Her previous translations to Hungarian include Mordets praktik (The Practice of Murder) and Händelser vid vatten (Blackwater) by Kerstin Ekman.

Steve Sem-Sandberg (born 1958)

Works
Stormen (The Storm), fiction, 2016
De utvalda (The Chosen Ones), fiction, 2015
De fattiga i Łódz (The Emperor of Lies), fiction, 2009

Awards
August Prize for Fiction 2009
Gerard Bonniers’ Award, The Swedish Academy 2016
Eyvind Johnson Award 2020

The book
W, novel, Albert Bonniers, 420 pages, 2019

Publisher
Albert Bonniers

Rights
Nordin Agency

Rights sold
Czech, Paseka 
Denmark, Palomar 
France, Éditions Robert Laffont 
Germany, Klett Cotta 
Greece, Alexandria Publishing 
Hungary, Europa Publisher 
Italy, Marsilio 
Lithuania, Lietuvos Rasytoju Sajungos Leidykla 
Netherlands, Ambo Anthos 
Spain, Imedimenta 
US, Overlook Press