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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

My Fathers' Ghost is
Climbing in the Rain


by
Patricio Pron


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain



Title: My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain
Author: Patricio Pron
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 212 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain - US
El espíritu de mis padres sigue subiendo en la lluvia - US
My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain - UK
My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain - Canada
My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain - India
L'esprit de mes pères - France
Der Geist meiner Väter steigt im Regen auf - Deutschland
Lo spirito dei miei padri si innalza nella pioggia - Italia
El espíritu de mis padres sigue subiendo en la lluvia - España
  • Spanish title: El espíritu de mis padres sigue subiendo en la lluvia
  • Translated by Mara Faye Lethem

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Our Assessment:

B+ : interesting fictional take with factual basis

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
El Cutural . 22/7/2011 Ernesto Calabuig
The NY Times Book Rev. . 7/7/2013 Marcela Valdes
Publishers Weekly . 11/3/2013 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "(N)o es un simple ejercicio de escritura, obedece a un proyecto de verdad ambicioso, cargado de resonancias éticas y, ciertamente, doloroso para su autor, por cuanto tiene de catarsis persona l: nada tan difícil como rastrear los orígenes personales esclareciendo quiénes fueron en verdad tus padres y tu propio país." - Ernesto Calabuig, El Cutural

  • "What makes Pronís novel unusual is how far its inquiry overlaps with reality. (...) These parents rank, in other words, among Argentinaís vanquished, and Pron is brilliant on the topic of growing up in the aftermath of heroic collapse. (...) But even if one takes Pronís novel on its own terms, abandoning the desire for conventional plotting, a serious problem remains. Though his self-appointed task is to track down, as far as possible, the historical truth of his father and Alicia, in practice he avoids any uncomfortable details about his fatherís participation in the Iron Guard. Instead, he gives us broad strokes of history that are barely better than those available on Wikipedia." - Marcela Valdes, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Although the novelís 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." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Much of My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain (the title taken from a Dylan Thomas poem) is fact-based, and the first-person narrator's biography (and that of his family) closely resembles that of author Patricio Pron. It's a shame: Pron shows considerable creative flair and solid writing chops, but rather than taking full flight in fiction he grounds his story entirely in actual occurrences and, 'important' though this story may be, the use of real people and events here limits Pron and his story(telling).
       One of the first things the narrator makes clear in the book's opening section is that he is not well-tethered to the past. He has made himself rootless -- describing preferring to crash on other people's couches, rather than having his own place, not for financial reasons but simply out of personal preference -- and notes that he has almost no memory of the entire first decade of the new millennium:

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
       My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain is a novel of memory and remembering, of reclaiming the past (and of determining identity). Worried about losing his own memory, the narrator has even compiled a list to: "hold on to a couple of things I wanted to keep" -- a useful little life-summary covering less than four pages.
       The narrator is adrift, but a family crisis shakes him out of this. His father is in hospital, very ill, and so the narrator returns to his native Argentina after a long absence to be with his family. Once there, he finds a folder with newspaper articles, notes, fliers and other material, labeled 'Burdisso', dealing with the (real) 2008 disappearance of one Alberto José Burdisso. The long second section of My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain presents much of this material dealing with this case -- the disappearance of the man, the search for him, and then the inquiry into what happened to him, and why.
       There are, of course, echoes of Argentina's terrible history of the 'disappeared' here -- including, in the reports, observations such as: "Nobody knows anything. Nobody saw anything, nobody heard anything" (with the narrator trying also to interpret the material, trying to read into it all the many motives behind the phrasings and information, and the general atmosphere the situation had led to). As it also turns out, the missing man had a sister -- who was 'disappeared' in 1977.
       For the narrator this folder leads to a journey into the past -- not so much his own (though that is addressed as well), and not only the recent one covered by most of the material in the folder, but rather that of his father. As he realizes:
My father had started to search for his lost friend and I, without meaning to, had also started shortly afterward to search for my father. This was our lot as Argentines.
       At the beginning of the novel, the narrator had stated:
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.
       That's rather an over -simplification and -generalization, but clearly his return to home and homeland -- and the finding of the material his father had collected -- gives him the necessary push to delve into his family's history, including what his parents did in the 1970s.
       The narrator sees the material his father collected as possibly: "the materials for the novel my father had wanted to write and never did", and My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain is a very creative re-working of this material, enhanced by Pron's own embellishments -- numbered chapters out of sequence; dream-episodes; a variety of family history, as well as the present-day perspective.
       It's all quite well done, and some of the writing is splendid. Much is too obvious or simplistic -- it takes a lot to pull off a claim like: "Children are detectives of their parents", and Pron doesn't come anywhere close -- and presumably much is too personal for Pron to write with the necessary (or at least preferable) distance. One hopes that he got this out of his system, allowing him to turn true fiction (rather than this fact-based sort of stuff).
       My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain is a nice show of obvious talent, and certainly of some interest -- but, ultimately, limited by its grounding in fact.

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 June 2013

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Links:

My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain: Reviews: Patricio Pron: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentine author Patricio Pron was born in 1975 and lives in Spain.

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© 2013 the complete review

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