22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Tom Rachman

Portrait Tom Rachman
© Hartwig Klappert

Tom Rachman was born in London in 1974 and grew up in Vancouver. Following film studies at the University of Toronto he received a master in journalism at Columbia University in New York. He subsequently served as a foreign correspondent for Associated Press in Rome, also reporting from such locations as Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Egypt. Between 2006 and 2008 he was an editor at the »International Herald Tribune« in Paris.

Rachman’s warmly received debut novel »The Imperfectionists« (2010) was translated into over a dozen languages even before its publication. Episodic, kaleidoscopic, it describes the struggle of an English-language newspaper based in Rome. Chapter by chapter, Rachman brings a depth of knowledge to his characters, which include reporters, editors, department heads as well as a reader, a worldly publisher and an eccentric obituary writer; he follows their working and private lives which are variously distinguished by intrigue, rivalry and individual quirks. Intermediary fragments reveal the nebulous origins of the newspaper, the mirror image of its looming struggle. Rachman illustrates the oft-discussed decline in the quality of print media through empathetic depictions of individual destinies which repeatedly interconnect. This debut was included on the long list of the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize (2010) and chosen as one of the »100 Best Books in 2010« by the »New York Times«. It was followed by such works as »The Bathtub Spy« (2011) and the short story »The Coup« (2012), first heard in a radio adaptation as part of the BBC series »Friday Firsts«. In Rachman’s latest novel, »The Rise & Fall of Great Powers« (2014), the reserved bookseller Tooly Zylberberg attempts to reconstruct her childhood and the mysterious circumstances of her earlier abduction. The protagonist’s biography gradually unfolds, shifting between three time periods (1988, 1999 and 2011) and multiple locations (including Bangkok, Brooklyn and Wales). The references which link the various flashbacks and her present-day enquiries reveal the ways in which an ensemble of oddball characters engages in mutual manipulation. Along with the deftly nested plot, Rachman’s narrative also distinguishes itself through the combination of cryptically humorous passages and the tragic realisation of an externally determined existence, as well as the portrait of the last quarter of a century which it delivers. When Tooly talks books with her bibliophile colleagues, it can also be read as a love letter to the escapist and educational essence of literature itself.

Rachman lives in London.