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Over 400,000 copies sold

English sample available

Manunia was the first major work by Narine Abgaryan, named as ‘one of Europe’s most exciting authors’ by The Guardian. Manunia is the first of a prize-winning trilogy, which has enjoyed considerable commercial success – selling over 400 000 copies, topping the bestsellers lists, and – most excitingly – was adapted into a television series, a feature film and an animated series.

Set in the 1980s, Manunia tells the story of two little girls growing up in Soviet Armenia, and the often absurd situations they found themselves in. Manunia is an autobiographical mix of light-hearted anecdotes and heart-breaking lessons retold with compassion, whilst at the same time hinting at the very adult world just on the fringes of the girls’ awareness. Manunia is distinctive for its humour, often derived from arguably controversial themes, such as death and religion, yet handled with artistry and sensitivity by the author. Abgaryan’s writing is revealing: she doesn’t shy away from the grittier aspects of growing up. She writes candidly and irreverently about “that time Manunia and I got head-lice,” and “that time Manunia had a crush on the next-door neighbour”, not to mention, “that time we nearly shot our PE teacher with a shot-gun.”

Most of the narrative unfolds over the course of one long, sumptuous summer, just as the girls are on the cusp of adolescence. The narrator introduces us to the town of Berd, its history and the particularities of its people. We soon meet Ba, the story’s unlikely protagonist: a veritable force of nature, the character of Manunia’s grandmother is a slow burner. Cantankerous at the best of times, with a unique world view and sense of humour, she has a nature one warms to over the course of the narrative. Each chapter sees the girls embroiled in mishap after mishap: whether its setting Grandma’s bloomers on fire, or playing with the rag-and-bone man’s kids, who are strictly out of bounds. A bout of head-lice means the girls have their heads shaved by Ba, who accidentally dyes their scalps blue with her homemade hair-mask – though she’d have you believe it was entirely part of the plan. The girls learn a valuable lesson about life and death when they find a baby bird, fallen from its nest. And again when they play at being snipers – complete with a real shotgun. While the focus is on the girls’ antics and shenanigans, Abgaryan deftly uses the negative spaces to show glimpses of life in the Soviet Union.

The plot is set against a backdrop of characters from various cultures: Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Russians, Georgians, Gypsies, and Jews. All from different walks of life. All inextricably intertwined, as was the norm in the Soviet Union. All thrown together by circumstance, rubbing along with surprising harmony. Set in an unfamiliar for a non-Russian reader cultural landscape, Manunia would appeal to a readership seeking a more nuanced insight into growing up in the Soviet Union.

The story is set in Armenia, which adds a unique cultural element to the narrative, distinguishing it from the majority of books translated from Russian. Manunia was marketed as “a children’s book for adults” – an easy read for adult readers, this novel would also be suitable for the young adult market. It is hard to compare Manunia to other books as it feels very contextual. To a certain extent, the colourful characters and distinctive humour are reminiscent of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.

Book details


Novel, 2010

315 pp

Rights sold

  • Armenian Antares

  • Bulgarian Labirint

  • Estonian Tänapäev

  • Romanian Editura Frontiera

  • Arabic Thaqafa

  • Polish Glowbook

Film rights sold

  • film series Manunia, two seasons

  • (directed by Arman Marutyan, produced by Andreasyan brothers, 2021-2022)

  • a feature film Manunia in the Movies (directed by Arman Marutyan, 2022),

  • a feature film Manunia in the new Year (directed by Arman Marutyan, 2023)

Theater rights sold

  • RAMT, Moscow

  • Theater For Young Viewers, Ufa

  • Avocado Center, St Petersburg

  • Deti raika, Moscow


Literary awards

  • The Alexander Green Award 2015

  • Longlisted for the Big Book Award 2011

  • Winner of the Manuscript of the Year 2010

  • Winner of the Russian Literature Prize 2010

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