"A beautifully ingenious memoir, saturated in the history of the European 20th century, and made all the more compelling by Ann Goldstein’s luminous translation.”
—Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments
This singular autobiography unfurls from author Marina Jarre’s native Latvia during the 1920s and '30s and expands southward to the Italian countryside. 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 Protestant who translated Russian literature; and her sister and Latvian grandparents. Jarre tells of 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. Jarre lives with her maternal grandparents, French-speaking Waldensian Protestants in the Alpine valleys southwest of Turin, where she finds fascist Italy a problematic home for a Riga-born Jew. This memoir—likened to Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov or Annie Ernaux’s The Years and now translated into English for the first time—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.
Reading group guide to Distant Fathers is available for download free of charge at newvesselpress.com.
"Recounts a life of displacement through rich sense memories ... Jarre focusses on specific, intense recollections: the jellied calves’ feet her father ate, herbs in her grandmother’s mountain garden, even the taste of Nivea skin cream. The book’s elliptical string of fragments captures the nonlinear nature of memory."
—The New Yorker
"This impressionistic memoir by an overlooked Italian writer—the child of a Christian mother and a Jewish father killed in the Holocaust—is seen as her masterwork."
—The New York Times
“Although Jarre, who died at 90 in 2016, published more than a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction ... Distant Fathers is the first of her books available in English. It must not be the last ... Written in lucid, luminous prose ... she conceives of her life in terms of a darkness broken by occasional bursts of illumination — 'tiny pinpoint glimmers.' ... Marina Jarre’s struggle to find fitting words flashes through the murk.”
—The Los Angeles Review of Books
"A great book finally receives the notice it deserves ... Prolific and distinguished, Ann Goldstein is an ideal translator for Jarre’s provocative combination of psychological insight, feminist critique, transnational reflections, and historical interrogations."
—Reading in Translation
"An extraordinary memoir from a writer with an unforgettable voice ... Distant Fathers is remarkable because of Jarre's ability to render her inner world precisely, including her lifelong sense of detachment. The book's great achievement is allowing readers fully to inhabit Jarre's fascinating, singular mind."
—Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
"This stunning autobiography is both a love letter to a flawed and vanished childhood and a map of a woman’s inner topography as she fumbles toward identity. Never before translated into English, Jarre is a wonderful new discovery. Readers will be excited by the wealth of her archive, eagerly awaiting translation."
—Words Without Borders
"Marina Jarre is an original, powerful and incisive writer ... Her works—true, small-scale, essential masterpieces—have found passionate readers and critics and have an indisputable place in Italian literature of the past fifty years."
—Claudio Magris, author of Danube and Blameless
"'Here is what it has felt like to be me,' says every autobiography. The best, like Distant Fathers, go farther, plunging us into the stream of history—its ravages, its reprieves. Ann Goldstein's shimmering translation of Jarre's prose delivers into English a European masterpiece."
—Benjamin Taylor, author of Here We Are and The Hue and Cry at Our House
"The late Italian novelist Jarre reflects on her life in this kaleidoscopic memoir, here appearing in English for the first time ... Gems of language and ideas abound ... Lyrical prowess ... Haunting prose."
"Incandescent ... Masterfully renders the simultaneous, interlaced experience of someone displaced in times, places, and cultures ... This book speaks with such relevance to our own times ... Marina Jarre is an extraordinary rediscovery."
—Printed Matter, the monthly of Centro Primo Levi
"Midcentury European novelist Jarre (1925-2016) recalls the lifetime of dislocations that formed her changing sense of self ... Like Nabokov's Speak, Memory, this book is more concerned with time and perspective than narrative storytelling, though Jarre is more like Ferrante in her lack of nostalgia and unflinching focus on the difficulties of relationships. Connoisseurs of literary memoir will enjoy Jarre's precise way of capturing emotional experiences."
"Marina Jarre ... writes about being haunted, about never knowing quite where she was, and about 'not belonging' ... with imagery that ranges from poetic and contemplative to graphic and even disgusting, revealing herself as unafraid to show what is often kept hidden for fear of judgement. The eloquence of Marina Jarre’s insightful memoir reflects what had always been, even more than people and events, her true passion: words and stories."
"Marina Jarre's astonishing work reads like a dreamscape. Here, a Nabokovian memory mingles with meditations on homeland, womanhood, and sexuality. A book both sharp as a blade and glistening like a river in the sun."
—Lila Azam Zanganeh, author of The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness
"Marina Jarre’s vibrant memoir is stunning in its intimacy, honesty, and finely observed detail."
—Hilma Wolitzer, author of An Available Man and Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket
"This is a beautifully ingenious memoir, saturated in the history of the European 20th century, and made all the more compelling by Ann Goldstein’s luminous translation.”
—Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments and The Odd Woman and the City
A 2021 "Must-Read" in Translation
"It's an incalculable source of joy when ... one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century can resume dialogue with the readers of today."