By Michelle Rahimi
Gerald Lees’ translation into English of Francis Walder’s novel “Saint-Germain, ou la Négociation” has been recently published under the title “The Negotiator: The Masterclass at Saint-Germain” by Unicorn Publishing Group. The novel stands out and is highly regarded in negotiating circles, by practitioners and academics alike.
For the first time in over sixty years, this novel has become available in English. Having won the highest literary prize in France – the Prix Goncourt – in 1958 for its literary qualities, atmosphere, and psychological insights, it comes as no surprise that the new translation has caused a positive stir.
The novel is historical in nature, (set in 1570 during the French Wars of Religion) and was written mainly to demonstrate the art and skills of conducting diplomatic negotiations.
Walder, the Belgian author of the novel, was a former soldier, prisoner of war, and diplomat. His life experiences no doubt gave him great insight into how to negotiate.
The novel lies curiously between fiction and history, increasing its unique qualities. The negotiation in question throughout the text truly did take place, with the protagonist-narrator having negotiated the clauses discussed.
Although the work is short in length, with some 128 pages, it does not skip out on depth, quality, and meaning, and includes an introduction, illustrations, and notes.
A quote from the work reads: “Yes, I have made a novel from what seems the driest, most impersonal thing in the world: negotiating a treaty. But, behind the scenes, living forces were at work, and what is alive is worth writing about. Not surprisingly, the book is about people” (p. 8).
The quote gives insight into the true essence of the work and why it has captivated the hearts and minds of so many. To transform a subject for the most part considered dry, to one that has been discussed and referred to for decades because of its intriguing and captivating content is an enormous achievement.
“The Negotiator: The Masterclass at Saint-Germain,” by Francis Walder in its new translation in English is now available from the publisher or on Amazon.