Exclusive Cover Reveal of Jennifer Croft’s “The Extinction of Irena Rey”

The author and the designer discuss their thoughts about the book cover

Electric Literature is pleased to reveal the cover for Jennifer Croft’s The Extinction of Irena Rey, which will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing on March 5th 2024. Preorder the book here.

From the Booker International Prize-winning translator and Guggenheim fiction fellow, a propulsive, beguiling debut about eight translators and their search for a world-renowned author who goes missing in a Polish forest.

Eight translators arrive at a house in a primeval Polish forest on the border of Belarus. It belongs to the world-renowned author Irena Rey, and they are there to translate her magnum opus, Gray Eminence. But within days of their arrival, Irena disappears without a trace.

The translators, who hail from eight different countries but share the same reverence for their beloved author, begin to investigate where she may have gone while proceeding with work on her masterpiece. They explore this ancient wooded refuge with its intoxicating slime molds and lichens and study her exotic belongings and layered texts for clues. But doing so reveals secrets—and deceptions—of Irena Rey’s that they are utterly unprepared for. Forced to face their differences as they grow increasingly paranoid in this fever dream of isolation and obsession, soon the translators are tangled up in a web of rivalries and desire, threatening not only their work but the fate of their beloved author herself.

This hilarious, thought-provoking debut by award-winning translator and author Jennifer Croft is a brilliant examination of art, celebrity, the natural world, and the power of language. It is an unforgettable, unputdownable adventure with a small but global cast of characters shaken by the shocks of love, destruction, and creation in one of Europe’s last great wildernesses.

Here is the cover, designed by Patti Ratchford, artwork by Inka Essenhigh.

Cover designer Patti Ratchford: “While I read The Extinction of Irena Rey, I immediately thought of a show I had seen a few years back by the artist Inka Essenhigh. It featured these fantastical portrayals of nature that I thought would be perfect for the surreal, lush setting of the book. But when I looked through her work, nothing quite fit. So, I moved on and developed other covers, but still I couldn’t get anything that fully captured the humor, mystery, and energy of the story. Just after abandoning another attempt, I heard that Inka was just closing a new show and, unbelievably, there it was: the cover. A fantastical primordial forest where the trees somehow look like people gathered around a leaf figure cradling mushrooms sprouting from the ground. What can I say, the art is as wonderous as the story.”

Author Jennifer Croft: “This is my absolute dream cover—Inka’s gorgeous painting is a perfect match for the dreamy forest atmosphere of The Extinction of Irena Rey! I love the twilight-blue trees that seem to be dancing, and I love the slightly scary way all of their branches tangle/intertwine. There are so many fungi in this novel, and I’m thrilled to see them featured in the foreground here, in addition to the lush, gorgeous greenery and those occasional, much-craved splotches of sunlight. I’m so grateful to the artist for trusting us with her exceptionally powerful and evocative piece!”

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