Litfest International Fiction Book Club

Join us and share your passion for reading!

Upcoming Meetings: 20 June 2022

Longlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize

That last day – a Friday afternoon at the beginning of October – I was waiting for the guitarist and the composer down by the canal, by the gravel track between the police station and the water… And just as I was unsuccessfully trying to remember the name of an Italian philosopher who’d written a long and exceptionally incisive essay on Scelsi’s work and importance, a guy came up and asked if I could spare any change for the homeless…

The next meeting of the Litfest International Fiction Book Club will be on Monday 20 June at 6.30pm when we will discuss Andrzej Tichý’s Booker International longlisted Wretchedness, translated from the Swedish by Nichola Smalley and published in the UK by And Other Stories in paperback and eBook.

To join the Litfest International Fiction Book Club, email Bill Swainson at

Wretchedness is a compelling story of life outside the mainstream, an examination of immigrants, drug addicts and petty criminals. Tichý takes the reader on a journey away from the bright lights of big-city life, into the shadows, and as Cody slips ever deeper into his memories, we’re shown a very different Sweden to the one we think we know.  This is not the country of ABBA and Volvos, but a divided society with severe issues’ Tony’s Reading List

Wretchedness is a deeply musical book (there’s even an accompanying Spotify playlist: a mixture of old school hip-hop and mid-century European avant-garde), and it is testament to Nichola Smalley’s skill that this musicality survives translation’ Jon Day, FT

You can listen to the Wretchedness playlist here.

Andrzej Tichý © Carla Orrego Veliz

Andrzej Tichý was born in Prague to a Polish mother and a Czech father. He has lived in Sweden since 1981. The author of five novels, two short story collections and a wide range of non-fiction and criticism, Tichý is widely recognised as one of the most important novelists of his generation. Wretchedness (Eländet) was shortlisted for the 2016 August Prize and won the 2018 Eyvind Johnson Prize. 

Nichola Smalley © Karina Lax

Nichola Smalley is a translator of Swedish and Norwegian literature. In 2014 she finished her PhD exploring the use of contemporary urban vernaculars in Swedish and UK rap and literature at UCL. Her translations range from Jogo Bonito by Henrik Brandão Jönsson to the latest novel by Norwegian superstar Jostein Gaarder, An Unreliable Man.

You can buy a paperback copy of Wretchedness and many of the book club choices and books by Litfest authors by going to our online bookshop at

Purchases through our online bookshop, like donations, help to support our work. Thank you

Litfest’s international programme is funded by the Jan Michalski Foundation.

About the Book Club

Every month the Litfest International Book Club meets to discuss some of the best works of contemporary fiction in translation, creating a series of friendly sessions with the aim of discovering what’s new and exciting in international literature. We talk about which books tor read among ourselves and make a point of choosing books that are available in paperback and eBook so that they are easy to find in libraries and bookshops.


Transcripts of our discussions with writers, translators, editors and prize judges from April 2020 to February 2021 are available to read online, and selected video recordings are also available via our YouTube channel.  From April 2021 most books will be introduced by the translator, author or editor in a short video.

Meetings of the Litfest International Fiction Book Club are held online.  If you would like to join us virtually by Zoom, please email Bill Swainson ( who will send you the joining details for each meeting.

International Fiction Book Club titles are available to order in advance. Local Pick Up (from The Storey reception in Lancaster) is now an option at the checkout. Please note, if choosing Local Pick Up, we will email you to let you know when your order is ready to collect.