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My Fathers' Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain

My Fathers' Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain

by Patricio Pron, Mara Faye Lethem (Translator)

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The American debut of one of Granta’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists, My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain is a daring and deeply affecting story of one Argentine family’s buried secrets. When a young writer returns home to visit his dying father, he finds himself drawn into an obsessive search for a local man gone


The American debut of one of Granta’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists, My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain is a daring and deeply affecting story of one Argentine family’s buried secrets. When a young writer returns home to visit his dying father, he finds himself drawn into an obsessive search for a local man gone missing. As the truth—not only about his father but an entire generation—comes to light, the narrator is forced to confront the ghosts of Argentina’s dark political past, as well as long-hidden memories about his own family’s history. Powerful and audacious, this semi-autobiographical novel is a thoroughly original story of corruption and responsibility, of history and remembrance, from one of South America’s most important new writers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The New Yorker

“Patricio Pron is an immense talent, a daring writer with an absolutely unique voice. My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain is a marvel.” 
—Daniel Alarcón, author of Lost City Radio

“Pron’s novel haunts me. [It] turned my heart upside down. . . . [He] is brilliant on the topic of growing up in the aftermath of heroic collapse.” 
—Marcela Valdes, The New York Times Book Review

“Startlingly brilliant. . . . As the book progresses Pron’s intense and exquisitely described interiority of the early parts slowly falls prey to the pull of a personal, communal, and national history that ever more firmly stakes it claims on the narrator.”
The Daily Beast

“[A] moving meditation on trauma, memory, and home, beautifully translated. . . . [Pron] probes the thorniest of ontological and epistemological questions, [and] compellingly displays—as well as explores—fiction's power to unearth the most deeply buried emotional truths.”
The Independent (London)

“A riveting story, elegantly translated.”

“Radiant and wrenching. You’ll never see Argentina—or fathers or sons or the human soul—the same way again. . . . A sublime accomplishment.”
—Carolina De Robertis, author of Perla

“Hugely rewarding—and deeply unsettling.” 
New York Journal of Books

“This is a brilliant, unforgettable novel. I was so entertained by Patricio Pron’s inventive, poetic, deranging sentences that I found myself thinking of Lewis Carroll.” 
—Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name

“A beautifully crafted novel, rich in metaphors. . . . My Father’s Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain draws you in and holds your attention. . . . Pron paints a vivid picture of the aftermath of Argentina’s tortured recent history.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

“This is an extraordinary book, and Pron is an extraordinarily gifted writer.” 
—KUER radio (Salt Lake City)

“A modern masterpiece written with beauty and purpose—this is a novel about everything that most matters in the world.” 
—Deborah Levy, author of Swimming Home

“With subtle intelligence, poetic insight, and exquisite style, My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain confirms Pron’s position as one of the finest novelists writing in Spanish today.” 
—Alberto Manguel, author of All Men Are Liars

Deeply affecting.” 
Metro (UK)

“A moving exploration of guilt and memory, and an unflinching study of what History can do to us. Pron opens his eyes where the rest of us would rather close them and keep them closed.” 
—Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Informers

“From a major new voice in Spanish literature, this novel should grant Pron a much-deserved readership in the English-speaking world. . . . A melancholy and chilling work of postmodernism, examining family, memory, and what collective fear does to a society.” 

“Pron has stitched the experiences of the activists, their survivors, and those who came later into a narrative that ties the individual to collective memory and a family’s history to a nation’s.”
Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Back home in Argentina to attend to his ill father, a young writer discovers the file his father kept on a recent disappearance and probable murder in his hometown. As he goes through the file, the son discovers not only the sordid details of the crime, but also its victim’s connections to Argentina’s Dirty War—during the ’70s when rightist generals disappeared members of the opposition. Although the novel’s second section consists largely of descriptions (repetitive and ungrammatical) of the attack on the hapless Alberto Burdisso, the book is fundamentally about memory and the consequences of its repression. When the writer—a stand-in for the author, whose father’s addenda to the text can be found on Pron’s blog—realizes that his journalist father was actively involved in the politics of that era, he recalls his childhood, filled with lots of hiding and precautions. The more the son learns, the more he remembers, and the resulting novel looks a great deal like the one he imagines his father writing: “Brief, composed of fragments, with holes where my father couldn’t or didn’t want to remember something.” In the face of denial and forgetting, Pron has stitched the experiences of the activists, their survivors, and those who came later into a narrative that ties the individual to collective memory and a family’s history to a nation’s. (May)
The New York Times Book Review - Marcela Valdes
…Pron's novel haunts me. Its unsentimental account of what it was like for a child of defeated leftists to grow up in Argentina in the shadow of the 1970s turned my heart upside down.
Library Journal
★ 10/01/2014
A writer returning to attend to his dying father encounters evidence that leads to startling revelations about his parents' involvement in the resistance to the Argentine dictatorship.
Kirkus Reviews
A son returns from self-exile and comes to terms with his father's past, and his own, during the military dictatorship in Argentina; the fifth, largely autobiographical novel and American debut from this Argentine writer. It's 2008. The author's alter ego, whom we'll call P., has spent the last eight years in Germany at a university, obliterating his past with huge quantities of pills. Now, at age 33, he returns to Argentina on word that his father, known as Chacho, is in the hospital, dying. P. reunites with his mother and siblings, but his mental fog only lifts as he reads through folders on his father's desk. They contain journalistic reports of a man's 2008 disappearance in Chacho's hometown. The man, Alberto Burdisso, was a 60-year-old maintenance worker at the athletic club and a former schoolmate of Chacho's, whose interest in the case becomes clear with the mention of Burdisso's sister, Alicia. Chacho had been a journalist and a teacher of journalism; also a Peronist and leftist. He had taught Alicia and gotten her involved in politics. When she was "disappeared" by the junta in 1977, Chacho felt responsible for her fate. Alberto's own fate was sealed when the state gave him a sizable sum: reparations for his sister's murder. The money attracted the attention of lowlifes, who threw Alberto down a well, where he died. P. recognizes there's a symmetry between his father's search for justice for Alberto and his own search for Chacho's political identity. His father had been a target of the junta. When his sister reminds P. that their father self-sacrificingly searched their car for bombs before driving them to school, that opens the floodgates of memory. No more pills. P. now has a moral imperative to see that his parents' struggle against the dictatorship must not be forgotten. The concrete details of Alberto's case resonate more than P.'s abstract spiritual odyssey.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from the hardcover edition.


Between March or April 2000 and August 2008, while I was traveling and writing articles and living in Germany, my consumption of certain drugs made me almost completely lose my memory, so that what I remember of those eight years—­at least what I remember of some ninety-­five months of those eight years—­is pretty vague and sketchy: I remember the rooms of two houses I lived in, I remember snow getting in my shoes as I struggled to make my way to the street from the door of one of those houses, I remember that later I spread salt and the snow turned brown and started to dissolve, I remember the door to the office of the psychiatrist who treated me but I don’t remember his name or how I found him. He was balding and weighed me on every visit; I guess it was once a month or something like that. He asked me how things were going, and then he weighed me and gave me more pills. A few years after leaving that German city, I returned and retraced the path to that psychiatrist’s office and I read his name on the plaque alongside the other doorbells, but it was just a name, nothing that explained why I’d visited him or why he’d weighed me each time, or how I could have let my memory go down the drain like that; at the time, I told myself I could knock on his door and ask him why I’d been his patient and what had happened to me during those years, but then I thought I should have made an appointment, that the psychiatrist wouldn’t remember me anyway, and, besides, I’m not really all that curious about myself. Maybe one day a child of mine will want to know who his father was and what he did during those eight years in Germany and he’ll go to the city and walk through it, and, perhaps, with his father’s directions, he’ll show up at the psychiatrist’s office and find out everything. I suppose at some point all children need to know who their parents were and they take it upon themselves to find out. Children are detectives of their parents, who cast them out into the world so that one day the children will return and tell them their story so that they themselves can understand it. These children aren’t judging their parents—it’s impossible for them to be truly impartial, since they owe them everything, including their lives—­but they can try to impose some order on their story, restore the meaning that gets stolen away by the petty events of life and their accumulation, and then they can protect that story and perpetuate it in their memory. Children are policemen of their parents, but I don’t like policemen. They’ve never gotten along well with my family.


My father got sick at the end of those years, in August 2008. One day, probably on her birthday, I called my paternal grandmother. She told me not to worry, that they’d taken my father to the hospital only for a routine checkup. I asked her what she was talking about. A routine checkup, nothing important, replied my grandmother; I don’t know why it’s taking so long, but it’s not important. I asked her how long my father had been in the hospital. Two days, three, she answered. When I hung up with her, I called my parents’ house. No one was there. Then I called my sister. A voice answered that seemed to come from the depths of time, the voice of everyone who has ever waited for news in a hospital hallway, a voice of tiredness and desperation. We didn’t want to worry you, my sister told me. What happened? I asked. Well, answered my sister, it’s too complicated to explain to you now. Can I talk to him? I asked. No, he can’t talk, she replied. I’m coming, I said, and I hung up.


My father and I hadn’t spoken in some time. It wasn’t anything personal, I just didn’t usually have a telephone on hand when I wanted to talk to him and he didn’t have anywhere to call me if he ever wanted to. A few months before he got sick, I left the room I’d been renting in that German city and started sleeping on the couches of people I knew. I didn’t do it because I was broke, but for the feeling of irresponsibility that I assumed came with not having a home or obligations, with leaving everything behind. And honestly it wasn’t bad, but the problem is, when you live like that you can’t have many possessions, so gradually I parted with my books, with the few objects I’d bought since arriving in Germany and with my clothes; all I held on to were some shirts, because I discovered that a clean shirt can open doors for you when you have nowhere to go. I usually washed them by hand in the morning while I showered and then let them dry inside one of the lockers at the library in the literature department of the university where I worked, or on the grass in a park where I used to go to kill time before searching out the hospitality and companionship of the owner of some sofa. I was just passing through.


Sometimes I couldn’t sleep; when that happened, I’d get up off the sofa and walk toward my host’s bookshelves, always different but also always, without fail, located beside the sofa, as if reading were possible only in the perpetual discomfort of that piece of furniture in which one is neither properly seated nor completely stretched out. Then I would look at the books and think how I used to read them one right after the next but how at that point they left me completely cold. On those bookshelves there were almost never books by those dead writers I’d read when I was a poor teenager in a poor neighborhood of a poor city in a poor country, and I was stupidly insistent on becoming part of that imaginary republic to which they belonged, a republic with vague borders in which writers wrote in New York or in London, in Berlin or in Buenos Aires, and yet I wasn’t of that world. I had wanted to be like them, and the only proof that remained of that determination, and the resolve that came with it, was that trip to Germany, the country where the writers that most interested me had lived and had died and, above all, had written, and a fistful of books that already belonged to a literature I had tried and failed to escape; a literature like the nightmare of a dying writer, or, better yet, of a dying, talentless Argentine writer; of a writer, let’s say, who is not the author of The Aleph, around whom we all inevitably revolve, but rather the author of On Heroes and Tombs, someone who spent his whole life believing that he was talented and important and morally unquestionable and who at the very end discovers that he’s completely without talent and behaved ridiculously and brunched with dictators, and then he feels ashamed and wants his country’s literature to be at the level of his miserable body of work so that it wasn’t written in vain and might even have one or two followers. Well, I had been part of that literature, and every time I thought about it, it was as if in my head an old man was shouting Tornado! Tornado! announcing the end of days, as in a Mexican film I had once seen; except that the days had kept coming and I had been able to grab onto the trunks of those trees that remained standing in the tornado only by quitting writing, completely quitting writing and reading, and by seeing books for what they were, the only thing that I’d ever been able to call my home, but complete strangers in that time of pills and vivid dreams in which I no longer remembered nor wanted to remember what a damn home was.

Meet the Author

Patricio Pron, born in 1975, is the author of three story collections and four previous novels, and he also works as a translator and critic. His fiction has appeared in Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story and The Paris Review, and has received numerous prizes, including the Juan Rulfo Short Story Prize and the Jaén Novel Prize. He lives in Madrid.

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