Berlin: 11 Festival Books — And Their Big-Screen Potential

The 11th edition of the fest’s unique book market spotlights stories that include a glowing pink elephant, a Kurdish refugee’s life struggles and a Finnish superheroine called Zebra Girl.
Courtesy of Berlin Film Festival

Elefant
By Martin Suter (Switzerland)
The Swiss novelist and screenwriter looks at the dark side of genetic engineering in his latest effort. The plot seems to beg for an animated adaptation but is spun as a thriller: When a glowing pink mini elephant gets loose in Zurich, it is pursued by the evil geneticist who created it and a Burmese elephant whisperer who wants to protect it.
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Never Be Sad Again
By Baptiste Beaulieu (France)
On his way to committing suicide, a 40-year-old doctor is convinced to postpone his demise by an eccentric old woman who can predict a person’s exact time of death by looking at them. She takes him on a series of odd adventures to reclaim his love of life.
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The Boy
By Marcus Malte (France)
Malte won the 2016 Prix Femina prize for this period novel about the coming of age of a boy raised in the woods who must venture out into the world when his mother dies. The central character — a feral Forrest Gump — and the scope make this a tough sell.
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One Possible Life
By Hannes Köhler (Germany)
The author’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2011 debut novel Im Spuren tells the story of World War II German POWs who are brought to an American prison camp from the perspective of the Germans. World War II stories still sell.
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The Mascoteers: Enter the Zebra
By Rollo de Walden (Finland)
The first in a new children’s series has 13-year-old Blue Robinson learning that not only is Oscar, the boy she baby-sits, part of a band of young freaky-geeky superheroes, but that they in turn believe she is their Zebra Girl. When the Evil Mastervillain shows up, Blue learns whether there really is a hero within her.
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The Last Pomegranate
By Bachtyar Ali (Germany)
The 2002 novel from the Kurdish novelist (who now lives in Germany) has new resonance with its 2016 German translation. While traveling on a boat to freedom in Europe, Muzafari Subhdam, a Kurdish refugee, tells the story of his 21 years in captivity in the desert.
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The History of Bees
By Maja Lunde (Norway)
Lunde won the 2015 Norwegian Booksellers prize for this novel, which is set in three different time periods — 1852, the present and the future — as three different beekeepers grapple with the life and death of the insects. Cloud Atlas may have permanently killed this type of story.
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Berlin — Fires of Tegel
By Fabio Geda & Marco Magnone (Germany)
In the first book in a new dystopian YA series, a plague has swept through 1970s Berlin, killing everyone over 18, and the city is divided between rival gangs. Amid the feuding and fight to survive, some seek an antidote and hope to see what has happened to the rest of the world.
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The Ditch
By Herman Koch (The Netherlands)
The latest book from the Dutch actor and screenwriter finds the popular mayor of Amsterdam’s life unraveling when he suspects his wife is cheating with his conservative rival and his 90-year-old parents want to commit suicide so as not to burden him. This has all the makings of a great madcap domestic comedy.
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We Own the Sky
By Luke Allnutt (United Kingdom)
The British journalist’s debut novel was plucked from an agent’s slush pile and sold for five figures. The story is pitched as the “heartbreaking yet life-affirming” story of a widower helping his young son battle cancer. Tearjerkers like this have universal appeal.
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The Joyce Girl
By Annabel Abbs (Belgium)
Inspired by real life, this debut novel recounts the tragic life of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia, who had a failed romance with Samuel Beckett and became the patient of Carl Jung.
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