cover image Autopsy of a Father

Autopsy of a Father

Pascale Kramer, trans. from the French by Robert Bononno. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $16.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-942658-24-5

Kramer’s restrained, powerful novel is about the complicated pull of family ties. Ania, a woman living on her own with her young son, Theo, learns that her father, Gabriel, a radio commentator and intellectual, has died. Estranged from him since the death of her mother, she visits his country estate to settle his affairs and learn more about the father she never knew. His womanizing behaviors and condescending attitude toward Ania created a rift between them, as did her feeling that she could never match him intellectually. Ania discovers that Gabriel had made a number of increasingly controversial pronouncements, the most recent, and most disturbing, of which was a defense of two local young men who attacked and killed an immigrant vagrant. The novel captures the complexity of relationships with great subtlety, not only Ania’s with her father, but also with Theo’s father, Novak, an Eastern European immigrant who has just reentered Ania’s life, as well as with Gabriel’s widow, Clara, who is equally helpful and difficult. While the ending is overly dramatic, for the most part the novel is a series of quiet scenes, full of introspection, memories, and contradictory emotions. Bononno has translated the original French into striking, flowing prose. (July)