Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mantel finally crosses the Channel

Robert Merle has been hailed as the 'Dumas of the 21st century' for his chronicle of French religious wars in the age of the Tudors

Robert Merle
Robert Merle's Fortunes of France series – which has sold more than 5m copies - will be be published in Britain next month. Photograph: Louis Monier/Getty

In France he is lauded as the nation's "greatest popular novelist" and the "Dumas of the 20th century". His historical fiction series, Fortune of France, has sold more than five million copies. But the adventure-filled epics of the late Robert Merle have never before been published in English.

The omission will be rectified next month when British readers will finally be able to get to grips with Merle's treatment of the French wars of religion in the 16th century. Pushkin Press, which specialises in lost classics, is bringing out The Brethren, the first of the 13-book Fortune of France series, originally published between 1977 and 2003.

Why it took so long is "a complete mystery" to Daniel Seton, an editor at Pushkin, who told of his surprise that such an "undiscovered gem" could have been overlooked in Britain for so long.

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