Knopf Acquires Debut About the Making of a Cold War Classic

By Kelly Roberts | June 14 2018 | Adult

Alfred A. Knopf and Vintage Books have acquired rights to a first novel by an American writer that has attracted the attention of publishers around the world and has already been sold to 11 countries with 6 more international sales pending.


The book, WE WERE NEVER HERE by Lara Prescott, is set in 1957, at the height of America’s Cold War against Russia. It is based on true events surrounding the publication of Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago — which had been banned in the Soviet Union — and the role the CIA played in translating the book, smuggling it behind the Iron Curtain, and orchestrating its use as a weapon of propaganda for the West. North American and open market rights for the book were acquired by Jordan Pavlin, VP and Executive Editor at Knopf, from Jamie Chambliss and Jeff Kleinman at Folio Literary Management. Lucy Stille at APA has been fielding film and television offers for the novel.


“Lara Prescott has written an irresistible literary page-turner,” said Pavlin, “a suspenseful, deeply romantic novel of soaring emotional intensity about the love story between Boris Pasternak and his muse, and the heroic women in the CIA’s typing pool who became spies charged with helping Doctor Zhivago to make its journey into print around the world.  Prescott’s command on the page is stunning, and her portraits of the women around Pasternak are unforgettable. This is the beginning of a major career, and we are elated to have Lara Prescott on the Knopf list.”


Nonfiction accounts of the story behind the original publication of Pasternak’s novel have appeared before, most recently in The Zhivago Affair by Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, which was published in 2014. But this is the first time the story has been fashioned into a novel.


“I’m humbled and thrilled at the enthusiasm around my novel,” says author Lara Prescott. “The incredible story of the writing of Doctor Zhivago and its clandestine distribution—of how governments once believed books could change the world—is one that needs to be told, perhaps now more than ever. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with Jordan Pavlin at Knopf in the United States and Selina Walker at Hutchinson in the United Kingdom to bring that story to readers worldwide.”


Prescott grew up in Pennsylvania and studied political science at American University in Washington, DC, and international development in Namibia and South Africa. She received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin, and her writing has appeared in The Southern Review, Tin House, and BuzzFeed. Prior to writing fiction, Prescott worked as a political campaign operative. She lives in Austin.


WE WERE NEVER HERE is scheduled to be published by Knopf in the US, Canada, and open market in 2020 (alongside Hutchinson in the U.K. and Commonwealth). The book will be published in hardcover and as an ebook, and in audio by Penguin Random House; it will be published in trade paper by Vintage the following year.

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