In the novel “Blood Book” Kim de l’Horizon arouses interest in the world of a person who defines himself neither as a man nor as a woman. Customers in the Swiss book trade bought the book so frequently that it took second place on the 2022 bestseller list. (archive image)
Kim de l’Horizon was on everyone’s lips in 2022. “Blutbuch”, the debut of Kim de l’Horizon from Bern, was published by the German publisher Dumont in mid-July; Almost at the same time, the German Jürgen Ponto Foundation announced that the novel would be awarded the foundation’s literary prize. In October he received the German and in November the Swiss Book Prize.
With these successes, Kim de l’Horizon has become an important voice for people who define themselves as gender fluid and nonbinary, which is now reflected in the sales of the novel. In the autofictional, linguistically idiosyncratic «Blood Book», the narrator Kim, like Kim de l’Horizon himself, identifies himself neither as a man nor as a woman. It is therefore not surprising at first glance that the much-discussed work has now made it to second place in the annual bestseller list, which the Swiss Association of Booksellers and Publishers (SBVV) presents at the turn of the year.
What is remarkable, however, is that in just under half a year the novel has overtaken works by well-established and well-known authors in terms of sales. The Swiss writers Alex Capus and Thomas Hürlimann achieved a remarkable sprint in book sales: Capus’ novel “Susanna” was published in July, Hürlimann’s work “Der rote Diamant” in August 2022. In the hardcover fiction category, Capus came fourth and Hürlimann came fourth fifth place. “It is very unusual that in 2022 three books, Hürlimann, Capus and de l’Horizon, are among the top five that only appeared in the second half of the year. These are great successes,” confirms Tanja Messerli, Managing Director of the SBVV, to Keystone-SDA.
Similar to Kim de l’Horizon, Thomas Hürlimann also mixes self-experiences – memories of his own boarding school days – with fiction. And Hürlimann was also nominated for the Swiss Book Prize. So is a book award nomination a guarantee of good sales? Not necessarily, as a comparison shows: in 2021, not a single work that was shortlisted for the Swiss Book Prize 2021 made it into the top ten best-selling books. Not even Martina Clavadetscher, who won the 2021 book prize with “The Invention of Disobedience”, was in the top ten of the list.
In 2022, six works in the top ten were by Swiss authors: in addition to Hürlimann, Capus and de l’Horizon, these are Christine Brand, Silvia Götschi and Philipp Gurt. It is no coincidence that the latter three write thrillers. For years, customers in the book trade have often reached for crime thrillers. In the current leaderboard, the genre occupies half of the top ten places.
In addition to the works of the aforementioned, there are two old hands who can count on a large and loyal fan base in Switzerland: The American-Swiss author Donna Leon came seventh with “Milde Gaben”, her 31st crime novel. Her German colleague, the writer Jörg Bong alias Jean-Luc Bannalec, made it to third place among the best-selling books in Switzerland with “Breton Nights”. In previous years he was number one.
What is surprising in 2022 is that there is a debut novel in each of the top two places. Ahead of Kim de l’Horizon with “Blood Book” and thus in first place is “A Question of Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus. “If someone had told me that first and second place in the best-selling novels would be debuts, I would have shaken my head,” comments Tanja Messerli.
The American author Garmus published her first work in April 2022 at the age of 65 with “A Question of Chemistry”, which has since inspired women in particular all over the world. It is the story of the chemist Elizabeth Zott, who, against all odds, tried to assert herself as a researcher among researchers in the 1950s.
“Bonnie Garmus and Kim de l’Horizon tell us unusual stories whose main characters I would not have thought capable of winning a majority. The fact that the two have now been followed by eight well-known authors underscores the surprise.»*
*This text by Maria Künzli, Keystone-SDA, was realized with the help of the Gottlieb and Hans Vogt Foundation.