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And the winner of the LES BIENVEILLANTES auction is…

Chatto and Windus! At least, the UK side of it, the Bookseller reports. The Random House imprint’s publishing director Alison Samuel acquired UK rights to the much-hyped 900-page novel by Jonathan Littell from agent Andrew Nurnberg for “a significant” sum after she read the book in French at Frankfurt. The offer is understood not to have been the highest that was made. “Les Bienveillantes is provocative, transgressive, and brilliant,” said Samuel. “It is quite simply a tour de force, not about the banality of evil but about its seductive enormity, about the ineffable horror of war, and about man’s inhumanity–a book that every thinking person should read and to which no one can be indifferent.” Chatto plans to publish in Spring 2008.

So far, no word on who will win the American auction, but one expects the news to break fairly soon…

UPDATE: And so it has, as the New York Times’ Julie Bosman reports that HarperCollins has scooped up the rights to the book. Jonathan Burnham, the senior vice president and publisher of HarperCollins, declined to disclose what the publisher paid for the book but said it was a substantial sum. (Publishers Marketplace reports that Burnham paid a cool million.) Littell’s novel is slated for a spring 2008 release in the US as well as in Canada, where McLelland & Stewart‘s Ellen Seligman bought the rights.

So why is this particular news so interesting? Because come January, HarperCollins will be publishing Vikram Chandra‘s SACRED GAMES, another 900-page doorstopper – and one with a ton of early advance buzz that’s begun to dissipate to the point where rumors abound about the house’s nervousness about its prospects. If SACRED GAMES doesn’t live up to expectations, will that lessen the chances for LES BIENVEILLANTES as well? Too soon to say, of course, but the potential parallels are worth noting…

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