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  • Published: 28 May 2018
  • ISBN: 9781784707965
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 496
  • RRP: $22.99

The Last Samurai

Originally published in 2000 to international acclaim, The Last Samurai is a paean to the power of language and learning – dazzling, delighting and inspiring a legion of readers

‘Fiercely intelligent, very funny and unlike anything else I’ve ever read’ MARK HADDON
'Original...witty...playful…a wonderfully funny book' JAMES WOOD
'A triumph – a genuinely new story, a genuinely new form' A. S. BYATT
Eleven-year-old Ludo is in search of a father. Raised singlehandedly by his mother Sibylla, Ludo’s been reading Greek, Arabic, Japanese and a little Hebrew since the age of four; but reading Homer in the original whilst riding the Circle Line on the London Underground isn’t enough to satisfy the boy’s boundless curiosity. Is he a genius? A real-life child prodigy? He’s grown up watching Seven Samurai on a hypnotising loop – his mother’s strategy to give him not one but seven male role models. And yet Ludo remains obsessed with the one thing his mother refuses to tell him: his real father’s name. Let loose on London, Ludo sets out on a secret quest to find the last samurai – the father he never knew.

  • Published: 28 May 2018
  • ISBN: 9781784707965
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 496
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Helen DeWitt

Daughter of an American diplomat, Helen DeWitt was born in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in 1957 and grew up in Latin America. Abandoning a degree at Smith College, she went to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, in 1979 to study classics. A Senior Scholarship at Brasenose College enabled her to get a DPhil and discover Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa and Mel Brooks. She left academia in 1988 to write a novel; she had 100 unfinished novels on her hard drive when The Last Samurai was published in 2000 to international acclaim. Her second novel, Lightning Rods, was published in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. She has contributed installations to Artists Space in New York and was resident and participant in the Plastic Words series at Raven Row in London. In descending order of proficiency she knows Latin, Ancient Greek, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Arabic, Hebrew and Japanese. She is based in Berlin.

Praise for The Last Samurai

A brilliant and sad book… The funniest book I’ve read in years.


A delightful and original novel – expansive and intelligent writing

Daily Telegraph

An original, daring novel, The Last Samurai could well become a classic – accessible and as unremittingly entertaining to the casual reader as it is rewarding to those who would delve further

Times Literary Supplement

De Witt has intelligence, wit and unusual stylistic bravery


An exhilaratingly literate and playful first novel by a fresh, electrifying talent. DeWitt goes to the top of the class...her adventurousness spins out on an epic scale

New York Times

The Last Samurai is an original work of brilliance about, in part, the limits of brilliance. And in literature as in life, DeWitt understands that what we like most of all is a good yarn


Destined to become a classic

Garth Risk Hallberg

A triumph – a genuinely new story, a genuinely new form

A. S. Byatt

An ambitious, colossal debut novel

Publishers Weekly

A brilliant debut novel...keeps things moving at an exhilarating clip... DeWitt is formidably intelligent but engagingly witty

Washington Post

Helen DeWitt is a real find – I loved this book

Independent on Sunday

It is exciting for the future of the novel that a writer can do all the basic things readers need – from Peter Pan to the Odyssey, from Bleak House to The Crying of Lot 49 – and do something new with the form of the tale itself

New Yorker

DeWitt pushes against the limitations of the novel as a form; reading her, one wants to push against the limitations of one’s own brain

Paris Review

The Last Samurai is a book everyone should be talking about

Huffington Post

A singular masterpiece


A tremendous novel. DeWitt is one of the most interesting writers working in the English language today

David Flusfeder

I adored this crazy, fabulous, lovable book… This really does deserve to be a modern classic

The Pool

Fiercely intelligent, very funny and unlike anything else I’ve ever read

Mark Haddon

A bold, brilliant book…original both in content and form… DeWitt’s zeal cannot fail to enchant


Her style is brilliantly heartless, and cork-dry; original herself, she is a witty examiner of human and cultural eccentricity. She is, above all, playful… What grounds all DeWitt’s brilliance and game-playing is the way that she dramatizes a certain kind of hyperintelligent rationalism and probes its irregular distribution of blindness and insight…a wonderfully funny book, but comedy dances near the abyss; the apprehension of humor’s frailty links DeWitt to the tragicomic tradition of Cervantes, Sterne, and Nabokov

James Wood, New Yorker

You walk into a book due to an Akira Kurosawa link and your fondness for the great film-maker. You walk out, staggered by the book's originality and bravery... It should be read by everyone

Irish Times

DeWitt pushes enjoyably but firmly against (and sometimes beyond) the unknown capabilities of the reader

Harry Strawson, Times Literary Supplement