The Greats by Sylvain Prudhomme, Translated by Jessica Moore

The Greats by Sylvain Prudhomme, Translated by Jessica Moore

Literature in Translation Series
Literary Fiction
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
226 pages
8 x 5.25 inches
ISBN 9781771663465

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Part of the New Essential Fiction Bundle

Winner of the 2015 Prix Littéraire de la Porte Dorée
Winner of the 2014 Prix Georges Brassens

Guinea-Bissau, 2012. Sylvain Prudhomme re-imagines the famous ’70s music group Super Mama Djombo, as seen through the eyes of Couto, the laconic guitarist. After learning of the death of the singer, Dulce—once the love of his life—Couto wanders through the capital city, from bar to bar, friend to friend. Thirty years file past in his memories: of the woman he loved, of guerillas fighting against Portuguese colonizers, and of the golden days of a legendary band that played all over the world with a sound that was new, fresh, and driven by the pride of an entire country.

The tension mounts as the group frantically prepares a final concert in Dulce’s honour, which must take place in just 24 hours. Little do they know, a coup d’ état is about to take place, executed by Dulce’s husband, Guinea-Bissau’s Army Chief of Staff.

Sylvain Prudhomme’s The Greats, translated by award-winning wordsmith Jessica Moore, is a novel of mourning, love, and the thirst for justice that tells the story of a population who knew hope and independence but now live under the oppressive rule of an army dictatorship.

Watch the Book Launch and Reading:

Praise for The Greats (Les grands):

“The chronicle of a success story, a story of love and friendship set against the backdrop of a coup d’état, Les grands is also a beautifully written book. Vibrant and smooth, each line pulls us into an avalanche of sensations…. A sumptuous stroll through an Africa on the verge of a rebirth” —Les Inrockuptibles

“A magnificent ode to music, love, and friendship…. This book will change you.” —Lire

“It’s a coup. A wild success.” —l’Express

“Jessica Moore’s splendid translation captures the rhythm of Prudhomme’s heart-felt homage to Guinea-Bissau, the vivid detail of his night stroll through the country’s shifting music scene, its ruthless, recurring, political upheavals and its ongoing fight for independence.” –Martha Baillie, author of If Clara and The Search for Heinrich Schlögel

Press Coverage for The Greats:

Most Anticipated Fall 2017 Fiction Preview —49th Shelf

Fall Preview 2017: Fiction —Quill and Quire

L’heure de pointe – Toronto, with Line Boily —CBC Radio/Radio Canada

Read an Excerpt from The Greats: Chapter 1: —Carte Blanche

“Clearly, Prudhomme strays from the historical truth here; importantly, that’s not the truth he attempts to access. This is less a novel about a band than what the band represents: both the greats – that generation who fought the Portuguese – and the ideals of independence, now in twilight.” —Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail

Bookish Radio: Episode #40 Jessica Moore —Bookish Radio

Born in France in 1979, Sylvain Prudhomme grew up in Cameroon, Nigeria and Burundi before returning to Paris to study literature, and then becoming director of the Franco-Senegalese Alliance in Ziguinchor, Senegal, from 2010 to 2012. Contemporary Africa, where he lived and worked for so many years, is one of his major sources of inspiration. Sylvain is the author of six novels. Les grands (Gallimard 2014) was named the “Révélation française de l’année 2014” in Lire Magazine’s best books of the year, and won the Prix Georges Brassens and the Prix de la Porte Dorée. His most recent book, Légende (Gallimard 2016), was a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Académie Française, and winner of the Prix François Billetdoux and the Prix Révélation SGDL.

Jessica Moore is an author and translator. Her collection of poems, Everything, now (Brick Books 2012), is partly a conversation with her translation of Turkana Boy (Talonbooks 2012) by Jean-François Beauchemin, for which she won a PEN America Translation Award. Mend the Living, Jessica’s translation of the novel by French author Maylis de Kerangal, was nominated for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize and won the £30,000 Wellcome Prize in 2017. Jessica grew up in Toronto, and after several nomadic years, will be once again using her hometown as her anchor. Learn more at