Winner of France's Prix de la Closerie des Lilas
Translated by Nick Caistor
An award-winning novel powerfully re-imagines a childhood in the spotlight of history, politics, and destiny. Montreal 1976. A fourteen-year-old girl steps out onto the floor of the Montreal Forum and into history. Twenty seconds on uneven bars is all it takes for Nadia Comaneci, the slight, unsmiling child from Communist Romania, to etch herself into the collective memory. The electronic scoreboard, astonishing spectators with what has happened, shows 1.0. The judges have awarded an unprecedented perfect ten, the first in Olympic gymnastics, though the scoreboard is unable to register anything higher than 9.9. In The Little Communist Who Never Smiled, Lola Lafon tells the story of Comaneci's journey from growing up in rural Romania to her eventual defection to the United States in 1989. Adored by young girls in the west and appropriated as a political emblem by the Ceausescu regime, Comaneci's life was scrutinized wherever she went. Lafon's fictionalized account shows how a single athletic event mesmerizes the world and reverberates across nations.
Well, as one might guess, a lot of books.
But somewhere nestled among big names like Colson Whitehead, Michael Chabon, Teju Cole, and Proust, there's the little book that could . . .Lola Lafon's The Little Communist Who Never Smiled.
Winner of France's Prix de la Closerie des Lilas, Lafon's The Little Communist Who Never Smiled tells the complicated story of gymnast-wunderkind Nadia Comaneci, who stunned the world at the 1976 Olympic Games when she scored a perfect 10.0 on the uneven bars at the age of fourteen.
But it's also deeply, brilliantly ambivalent book about a clash of cultures between the United States and Communist Romania, where Comaneci grew up, as well as a thoughtful examination of gender and celebrity.
We hope that Zadie Smith find time in her busy schedule to give it a read! Check out her interview in the New York Times here.