Howard M-B Maximus
A cover has many faces. As the language a book is written in changes, so does its cover. Behold the Dreamers is no exception.
Last month, we celebrated the first anniversary of Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, a page-turner about family struggles, vast longings, and what it means to be an immigrant (Cameroonian) in America. This million-dollar book was first published by Random House in the United States on 23 August 2016, and has since been translated into eleven languages, including French, Dutch, German, Czech, Polish, Serbian, Russian, Greek, Hebrew, Portuguese, and Danish – with a number of resulting book covers.
A book cover is like the gate to a book, its face, the outfit the book wears – book covers are invaluable, and the importance of their attractiveness cannot be overemphasised. A number of factors may account for this attractiveness. These include, for example, the colours used and their intensities – deep or delicate, sombre or splashy, pale or psychedelic –, the art and its aesthetics, the fonts and font size(s), the clarity, and the cover’s ability to depict the content of the book it binds.
The differences between the various covers of Behold the Dreamers range from subtle changes, such as translation of the title, to major transformations touching on everything but the author’s name. Jaya Miceli’s cover design (Random House edition) is a crystalline background of earth-tone reflections, with the title and the author’s name written boldly across in white. Sandwiching the title and the author’s name is a depiction of the novel’s backbone: cars, tall buildings, and the statue of liberty.
The German, Portuguese, and Greek covers are similar to the US cover, but for the translated title.
The French cover is also similar to the US cover, but replacing the crystalline is a mat-like background, and the title, Voici venir les rêveurs, which loosely translates to “Here Come the Dreamers”.
The UK cover by Susan Turner has a white background with a contrasting turquoise necktie that carries the two families (the Jongas and the Edwards), and, of course, a car. The car is the primary connection between these two families as Jende Jonga is a chauffeur for the Edwards, and the tie is a foretoken of Jende’s clip-on tie in the very first chapter of the novel.
Other covers feature different elements, such as the Polish cover, which shows a girl backing a city. The Czech cover, on its part, is an artistic splatter of bright colours, with the title and the author’s name in white. The Dutch cover is a sepia picture of a city with tall buildings, and the most recent cover is the Danish, with a gold-tainted crystalline background. There is a city in its centre with a yellowish-green water-paint effect that casts what looks like bright shadows.
In a bookshop, it is easier to gravitate towards books with the most interesting covers. Assuming you are like me, and take an interest in book covers, below are a number of covers of Behold the Dreamers I could find. If you were to choose your favourite(s), which one(s) would you pick?
US edition (Random House), German Edition, Greek edition
Portuguese (Brazilian) edition, UK edition (Fourth Estate [August 2017]), UK edition (Random House Trade [September 2018)
Czech edition, Dutch edition, US edition (Thorndike Press [November 2016])
French edition, Danish edition, Hebrew edition
Polish edition, Serbian edition, UK edition (4th Estate [February 2017])