A Distant Father

Other. 2014. 112p. tr. from Spanish by John Cullen. ISBN 9781590516256. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590516263. F
In this jewel of a novella, Chilean Skarmeta, author of the 1985 novel that inspired the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie Il Postino, exhibits the same master touch as he did in that book. Here he details the coming-of-age experience of poetry-minded Jacques, a young teacher in Contulmo, a village so small that pleasure-seeking villagers must take the train to the larger village of Angol to find even a whorehouse. Before the story opens, a light has gone out of the young man's life because his French father has abandoned the family in Chile to return to his native Paris; like his mother, Jacques loves his father "to the point of madness." He is now tempted in three directions: he can remain at home as his mother's surrogate husband; stay on as the lover of the attractive sister of one of his students; or follow his father to Paris for the literary life that he craves.
VERDICT The beauty of the telling offsets the sadness and desolation of small-town life and the confusions and revelations that Skarmeta describes are common to us all. [See Prepub Alert, 8/11/14.]
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