Monica Cantieni: The Encyclopedia of Good Reasons

Finalist for the Swiss Book Prize

Monica Cantieni
The Encyclopedia of Good Reasons


240pp (46,800 words)

English sample translation (pdf)

French sample translation (pdf)

»My father bought me from the municipality for 365 Swiss Francs.«

The narrator in Monica Cantieni’s novel is a young girl, an immigrant to Switzerland whose adoption is still to be finalized. The girl is learning German – the language spoken in her new community – and collects words and phrases in matchboxes. Her narrative, infused with a child’s uncannily perceptive idea of the world, moves between her days in the orphanage and her new life with her adoptive parents. Set in the time of the crucial 1970 Swiss referendum on immigration, we encounter a host of colourful characters who struggle to make Switzerland their home: Eli, the Spanish bricklayer; Toni, the Italian factory worker with filmstar looks; Madame Jelisaweta, the Yugoslav hairdresser; and Milena, the mysterious girl in the wardrobe. The tormented relationship between her new parents haunts her days as she creates with her adoptive grandfather Tat the »Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons« with which, one hopes, she will set out on her life’s journey.
A book with a very warm heart, rarely has a young girl’s narrative been at once so uproariously hilarious and so deeply moving, so rooted in the issues of today’s Europe and so universal.

»Unusual wealth of images, original narrative style.«
Felicitas Hoppe

Rights sold

France - Buchet Chastel
Hungary - Gondolat Kiadó
India (English World) - Seagull Books
Italy - Longanesi

Previously published/rights reverted:
Spain (Catalan) - Edicions de 1984
Spain (Castilian World) - Minúscula

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»The seemingly naive perspective of the GRÜNSCHNABEL does not destroy the sentences and words, but allows for the realization of language not just being, but rather doing something – behind the mask of sobriety that it attacks and segregates. And beyond that, an exceptional and humorous artificial language is constructed. (...) It’s a book for life.«
Melinda Nadj Abonji in DAS MAGAZIN

»A text, which poeticises the everyday life with subtle melancholy and sharpens the view for the wealth and power of language.«
Literarischer Monat, Sonderbeilage »Schweizer Monat«

»Cantieni creates loveable characters with an edge. She maintains a highly original writing style that is never shallow: The dialoge is pointed and on the spot; the images and comparisons are always fresh, and they lend a brittle sense of comedy to the text.«
Baseler Zeitung

»Impressive. ... Cantieni convinces with a fresh language, original metaphors and pointed dialogues. Her novel is populated by endearingly eccentric characters.«
Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag

»GRÜNSCHNABEL is convincing due to its vital characters as well as its language that marks a unique fusion of form and subject. (...) Still, it expresses a sense of lightness through its images, as if they had been captured by a loosely-held camera.«

»She writes in her very own, unique language that is sensual, tragicomic, and very direct. Thus, GRÜNSCHNABEL conveys a sense of immediacy, depth and complexity. GRÜNSCHNABEL is a stroke of luck – let us have more of it!«
Berner Zeitung

»GRÜNSCHNABEL is a unique and engaging novel. (...) Cantieni finds her own tone and rhythm, creating an artificial language as the child struggles to be heard and appreciated.«
Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»What makes GRÜNSCHNABEL an extraordinary book is its consequent style and the interesting approach to deal with the sensitive and biased issue of migration without accusation or lecturing, but to create a colourful, atmospherically dense story.«
Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF)

»The seemingly naïve world of a child’s vocabulary often reveals what adults would rather hide behind words.«
Neue Luzerner Zeitung

»A strong debut novel (...) using a sensual language full of fresh metaphors - and never moralizing. (...) GRÜNSCHNABEL tells of a child’s quest to find some meaning in life, and its poetical language becomes an issue in itself, as a world-disclosing force.«

»The child’s naive choice of words sheds light on some issues that adults would prefer to keep hidden behind the letters. The novel is marked by a lightness of narration and dry sense of humor.«
Aargauer Zeitung

»Monica Cantieni has found a new language that you cannot get enough of.«
Der Kurier

»So funny, so touching, so artfully bizarre (...) An outstanding novel about the problems of integration.«
Wiener Zeitung

»A tragicomical story«
Kleine Zeitung

»A refreshingly empathic novel about being different and the process of integration.«
Bündner Tagblatt

»This novel is a quest for expressions, for wonderful neologisms. «
Neuss-Grevenbroicher Zeitung

»Trenchant sentences and a captivating, seemingly easy, nosey, then again melancholy and clear view with which this child sees the world. The author uses exactly the right atmospheric mix and a precise language.«
Viceversa – Yearbook of Switz Literatures

»A must read!«
Tom Zai – Blog

Reviews from abroad

»’Mon pêre m`a achetée (...) pour 365 francs suisses. Cèst beaucoup pour un enfant qui ne voit pas plus loin que le bout de son nez.’ Ainsi commence l`histoire de GRÜNSCHNABEL, petite fille de dix ans au teint mat et aux cheveux sombres qui vient de se faire adopter par un couple de prolétaires suisses. (...) A travers les yeux d`une enfant, ce roman touchant pose le problème de l`intégration et proclame le pouvoir des mots, seul moyen d`apprivoiser l`étrangeté du monde.«

»Un livre attachant surtout, grinçant et drôle, terriblement émouvant dans sa description des liens entre une fillette et son grand-pére d’adoption.«

»Monica Cantieni se joue des clichés avec bonheur, grâce à la fraîcheur de sa narratrice, et dépeint un univers bigarré, plein de vie et d’humour.«
Le Courrier (Suisse)