Chasing the King of Hearts

by Hanna Krall


Out of stock

The internationally acclaimed Polish bestseller about the Holocaust. A remarkable true story of love and survival. Now for the first time in English.

The Warsaw Ghetto, 1942. When Izolda’s husband, Shayek, is imprisoned, she sets out to release him. She changes her name, her hair, her religion. Eventually she is captured and deported to Auschwitz. But even there, she trusts that her love will save them both.

Short-listed for The Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize 2015
Found in Translation Award 2014
Guardian’s Best Fiction 2013
Guardian Reader’s Books of the Year 2013
Winner English Pen Award 2013

Translated from the Polish by Philip Boehm.

176pp, paperback with flaps, £12.00
ISBN 978-1-908670-10-6
Publication date: 25 September 2013

Press & Reviews

'Chasing the King of Hearts is not only a love story and a Holocaust novel. Its deep and intimate inquiry is the mystery of personality – in other words, spiritual survival in a fateless universe... You now have in your hands a masterpiece.' Kapka Kassabova

'A spare, startling tale of love and survival.' Justine Jordan, The Guardian

'This strange unsettling novel ... is a remarkable find.... The reader is held at a distance by a tone that is so studiedly neutral as to be almost jaunty, yet because it is relating the most appalling atrocities it becomes the more affecting.' David Mills, Sunday Times

'An arresting style that rises in remarkable fashion to the challenge such a history poses to any narrator, combining steely lyricism with a thriller's tension.' Marek Kohn, Independent

'The narrative is epic in spirit but minimalist in its telling; historical but necessarily elliptical. With the homily of Walker Evans in mind – ‘Die knowing something. You are not here long’ – just read it.' Seán Sheehan, Irish Left Review

About The Book


Hanna Krall was born in 1935 in Poland and survived the Second World War hiding on the Aryan side (outside the ghetto) in Warsaw. Her family perished in the war. She began her writing career as a prize-winning journalist. Since the early ’80s she has worked as a novelist. She has received numerous Polish and international awards, such as the underground Solidarity Prize, Polish PEN Club Prize, the German Würth Preis for European Literature 2012 and the Austrian Herder Prize. Translated into 17 languages, her work has gained widespread international recognition. In 2007 Król kier znów na wylocie (Chasing the King of Hearts) was shortlisted for the Angelus Central European Literary Award.


Philip Boehm is the author of more than two dozen translations of novels and plays by German and Polish writers, including Nobelist Herta Müller, Christoph Hein, Bertolt Brecht and Stefan Chwin. Nonfiction translations include A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous and Words to Outlive Us, a collection of eyewitness accounts from the Warsaw Ghetto. For his work as a translator he has received numerous awards, most recently the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize (UK), the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize (US), and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He also works as a playwright and theatre director, and is the Founding Artistic Director of Upstream Theatre in St. Louis.