Distant Fathers

Marina Jarre


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Head of Zeus
2 February 2023
ISBN: 9781803280950
240 pages

From the publisher

Translated by Ann Goldstein

An extraordinary, luminous memoir that unfurls from author Marina Jarre's native Latvia in the 1920s and expands southward to the Italian countryside.

'Beautifully ingenious... Saturated in the history of the European 20th century, and made all the more compelling by Ann Goldstein's luminous translation' Vivian Gornick

'Her masterwork' New York Times

'Ann Goldstein's shimmering translation of Jarre's prose delivers into English a European masterpiece' Benjamin Taylor

'Lucid, luminous prose... The first of her books available in English [and] it must not be the last' Los Angeles Review of Books

In distinctive writing as poetic as it is precise, Jarre depicts an exceptionally multinational and complicated family: her elusive, handsome father - a Jew who perished in the Holocaust; her severe, cultured mother - an Italian Lutheran who translated Russian literature; and her sister and Latvian grandparents. Jarre narrates her passage from childhood to adolescence, first as a linguistic minority in a Baltic nation and then in traumatic exile to Italy after her parents' divorce, where she lives with her maternal grandparents among a community of French-speaking Waldensian Protestants and discovers that fascist Italy is a problematic home for a Riga-born Jew.

First published in 1987 and now translated into English for the first time, this powerful and incisive memoir is steeped in the history of twentieth-century Europe, and probes questions of time, language, womanhood, belonging and estrangement, while asking what homeland can be for those who have none, or many more than one.