Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

The Little Communist Who Never Smiled

by Lola Lafon

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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.

Collected in  

Women in Translation
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“In The Little Communist Who Never Smiled, French writer Lola Lafon considers a less common perspective – the female body as an ideological battleground. The result is enthralling – a thought-provoking, surprisingly touching story about a little girl who shook up the world.”

“[A] brilliant blend of fact, invention, and creative historiography. . . . This is a fiercely feminist novel. It’s compulsively readable, too, with descriptions of feats of physical daring to stop your heart.”

“[A]n impossibly insightful imagining of the events and the political and emotional aftermath of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s incredible performance at the 1976 Olympics.”

blog — August 02

Women in Translation: Announcing a Week-Long Sale and a New Bookseller Initiative

Back in June, after we announced a special offer for Pride Month, Eileen Dengler, executive director of the North Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) reached out to me asking if we could find a way to include booksellers directly in these kinds of initiatives. I was intrigued, and excited. I reached out to our sales team at Penguin Random House, and right away they were excited too. The result, beginning today, is what we hope will be a monthly partnership in which Seven Stories creates special themed collections and PRH offers these titles to booksellers at a special 51% discount for the entire month. Within that span, Seven Stories will also feature these collections for one week at a time online, hopefully building awareness of these titles—beginning today with “Women in Translation” since it is Women in Translation month, and the other, beginning August 15, “For Human Rights, Against War,” featuring a number of our most widely read political titles. We’ll discount these titles online, but only in such a way that booksellers can experiment with matching our discount if they so wish, thanks to the additional trade discount they receive.

We don’t know if this is exactly the right model. What we know is that a lot about it feels right, and we’ll keep experimenting until we find the model that is right for booksellers and publishers alike. If we can do that, then others will follow us.

If you have a local independent bookstore, shop there before you shop on our site, and remember that we provide a free e-book of every book that you buy from us online. If you buy one of the books from the collection at an independent bookstore, email a picture of your receipt to sevenstories@sevenstories.com to get a free e-book and updates from Seven Stories.

—Dan Simon, Publisher
Seven Stories Press

Here are the seven award-winning titles from our Women in Translation series, all at 35% off through August 8th. Free shipping within the U.S.!

1. The Hotel Tito: A Novel, by Ivana Bodrožić, translated by Ellen-Elias Bursać

Applauded as the finest work of fiction to appear about the Yugoslav Wars, acclaimed poet and novelist Ivana Bodrožić’s The Hotel Tito is at its heart a story of a young girl’s coming of age, a reminder that even during times of war—especially during such times—the future rests with those who are the innocent victims and peaceful survivors.

2. The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry: Algerian Stories, by Assia Djebar, translated by Tegan Raleigh

In these short stories, Djebar presents a brutal yet delicate exposition of how warring worlds enact their battles upon women’s lives and bodies.

3. The Ages of Lulu: A Novel, by Almudena Grandes, translated by Sonia Soto

The lurid and compelling story of the sexual awakening of a girl long fascinated by the thin line separating decency and morality from perversion, but whose increasingly dangerous sexual forays threaten to engulf her completely.

4. Syrian Dust: Reporting from the Heart of the War, by Francesca Borri, translated by Anne Milano Appel

In moving, powerful prose, Syrian Dust is a record of a freelance war reporter confronting the many-factioned conflict being fought against Bashar al Assad.

5. The Years, by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer

The Years is a personal narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions of past and present—even projections into the future—photos, books, songs, radio, television and decades of advertising, headlines, contrasted with intimate conflicts and writing notes from six decades.

6. Natural Histories, by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by J.T. Lichtenstein

Five dark and delicately written stories by international award-winner Guadalupe Nettel unfold in fragile worlds, where Siamese fighting fish, cockroaches, a cat, a snake, and a strange fungus are mirrors that reflect the unconfessable aspects of human nature we keep hidden.

7. The Little Communist Who Never Smiled, by Lola Lafon, translated by Nick Caistor

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, her body seemingly no longer her own. Lafon’s ficitionalized account shows how an extraordinary athlete mesmerizes the world, her fate reverberating across nations.

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Lola Lafon is a bestselling Paris-based novelist and musician. The author of three previous novels, Lafon was born in France and grew up in Sofia and Bucharest. The original French edition of The Little Communist Who Never Smiled won ten prizes. She lives in Paris.