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A Distant Father

3.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,055 ratings  ·  216 reviews
From the prize-winning Chilean novelist Antonio Skármeta, author of Il Postino, comes this soulful novella about a son and his estranged father

Jacques is a schoolteacher in a small Chilean village, and a French translator for the local paper. He owes his passion for the French language to his Parisian father, Pierre, who, one year before, abruptly returned to France withou
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by Other Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.07  · 
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 ·  1,055 ratings  ·  216 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-z-short-sweet
An opening scene that really left an impression on me. A son, having completed his education, returns to his village, gets off the train. As he gets off, his father gets on, same train, same car. A father leaving his wife and son. Of course there is also that beautiful paragraph that I quoted in the update section.

A short novella about the relationship between a father and son, told almost tenderly and with a great deal of insight. A young man, a schoolteacher, wanting only to be a better man,
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Barely a novella but a well constructed and beautifully crafted story of a young teacher who returns to his home village. His father leaves town on the same train the teacher arrives on. The teacher tries to solve the problems of his father, mother, a 15 year old student and his two attractive sisters. Just a gentle story of life.
Kati Heng
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Other Press again. This house just knows how to find stories people need to read, especially if it means they have to travel outside the U.S. to find them. I’m smitten.

Take A Distant Father. It’s tiny, easy to underestimate again. You almost have to call it a novella with it clocking in at about 100 palm-sized pages. Still, in such a short space, so much is said, so much pain and longing and emotion is felt.

The story revolves around Jacques, a Chilean schoolteacher in a small village. At 21, he’
Aug 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, translation
a slim work by antonio skármeta, the chilean writer perhaps best known for ardiente paciencia (the basis of the oscar-winning film il postino (the postman)), a distant father (un padre de película) is the tale of jacques, a young village schoolmaster and translator (queneau!). with a cinematic style, a distant father is a touching story of filial longing, sexual maturation, and emotional development. skármeta's characters are well-drawn, if tending towards quaintness. there is a certain delicacy ...more
Angela M
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful novella , a quiet story of a young man , from a small village in Chili . Jacques returns to his small village from the university to teach . Upon his return , he and his mother are abandoned by his father. Through his hurt, he becomes a wise and caring man.

The largeness of life and the people in this isolated village have been captured fully in spite of the fact that this is a small book .I really enjoyed the writing and I have just added Il Postino to my to read list .

Maria Carmo
An interesting book which I read in it's Spanish original (did not find the edition here on Good-reads so I used another).

There is a sort of authenticity and wonder in the way the Author writes and "constructs" his main character. A certain austere tenderness that is almost palpable through the pages. A somewhat unexpected finish helping the reader to feel hopeful.

I enjoyed reading it!

Maria Carmo,

Lisbon Th November 2012.
atom_box Evan G
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shorter than a single chapter of a GG Marquez book. Masterful compactness, like a portrait painted on a grain of rice.
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
A Distant Father, Antonio Skármeta, Translated from the Spanish by John Cullen
Other Press
ISBN: 978-1-59051-625-6
$15.95, 101 pages

A Distant Father by Antonio Skármeta is a spare but arresting novella. A master at work, Skármeta proves that it isn’t necessary to painstakingly draw every individual brick in a wall; a few suggestive brushstrokes, mere scaffolding, can deliver full impact.

The author of Il Postino: The Postman, which inspired the Academy Award-winning film of the same name, Skármeta w
Feb 22, 2015 rated it liked it
In a very short concise story author Antonio Skarmeta tells the story of love, betrayal and forgiveness. In a small village in Chile, a young man comes home from school to find his father leaving and his mother abandoned. He becomes the schoolteacher for the village children, while growing up himself. He learns about life, how to love and let go. His mentor is the local miller, who knows more than he is saying. This is a sweet story about maturity of the son and second chances.
Katarzyna Bartoszynska
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
This winsome little book is full of surprises. The charming tale of a schoolteacher and translator frustrated by small-time woes and family tragedies; many element seems familiar (two enchanting sisters, a young man yearning to visit a prostitute, a renegade father) but Skarmeta wields them in unexpected ways. The result is a strangely soulful story: sad yet joyful, dreamy yet practical. A very pleasant read.
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am always impressed by writers who can express a lot within a short number of pages. This is a good little book. The writing is crisp. The story has ups and downs, but it builds several interesting characters and provides a few amusing and heartfelt moments. I'm not sure why it's a standalone novella versus part of a collection (I'm never really sure how publishers decide when something short is worth publishing alone). ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
A surprising book for being so short. Although the ending leaves me unsatisfying, the honesty within the pages is humorous and sad all at once. Dramatic in the way that people often forget that their lives are full of drama.
Amal Alwadi
Feb 09, 2021 rated it liked it
Sweet, entertaining and calm. The kind of book you want to read after a very busy day. Loved the simple yet justifiable plot at the end !
Melanie Galea
Aug 12, 2022 rated it really liked it
Why is this not longer?
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a lightweight novella, barely a novella if we’re being honest, 13000 words so, technically, a novelette but despite all its length it covers a fair bit of ground. In his review in The Independent Jethro Soutar points out that the original title for the work was, Un padre de película which, he says, translates literally as “A father from film” and films are a definite touchstone in this book. So where do we get A Distant Father from? As far as the book’s protagonist goes his father has re ...more
Therese Wiese
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, fiction
I admit I was concerned when I saw how small the book was. But wow - the author packs a lot of emotion into this novella. I think this would be a great choice for a discussion group - fathers and sons, mothers and sons, being a mentor, that "aha" moment when you become an adult.

Thank you to Goodreads, the author Antonio Skarmeta, and the publisher Other Press for providing this first reads edition.
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Skarmeta’s novella “A Distant Father” is a haunting story of a family, a village, the choices we make. Having lived in northern Chile a little while, it was lovely to read a moment of life in southern Chile shared history yet shaped by very different landscapes. Skarmeta’s work is all the more compelling due to being sparsely told, just enough to hold you and plenty left to keep you thinking of the reading is done.

My copy came through Goodreads First Reads.
Oct 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, 2014, 2014ba
I got this one on first read contest. This book was a very quick read with it being a short book. However, it does pack a lot in a little package. Many parts of this book effected me especially the first scene. That being said I don't love this book but it is worth a read. What I do really like is this authors writing style I find it pretty beautiful. I will definitely be picking up the authors other work. ...more
Francisco Cardona
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
I read this in Spanish, Un Padre de Pelicula. It doesn't work as a novel, it's a short story, but not a very good one. The story seems part of a larger project I suspect. I don't know why they would publish such an incomplete work. I flipped through the English translation and it seemed decent enough. ...more
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a heartfelt novel (almost novella, really)about an abandoned family. I had a lot of empathy for the characters, and they were realistic. I also enjoyed his novel, The Postman (Il Postino), as well as the movie adapted from it. A quick and enjoyable read.
Reading this felt like watching some of the foreign films I saw when I was in college: nicely wrought, but lacking anything that felt lasting to me. I was probably missing a lot since I know nothing about Chile. Senora H-B, help me!
Sharon Heaverly Machuga French
I received this book through Goodreads FirstReads program.

A DISTANT FATHER by Antonio Skarmeta is a charming book about a father and grown son's relationship and the young man's growing up.

This is a very short book and will leave you wanting more.
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Its quiet pathos burst my eardrums.
Jenny Houle
Apr 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I gave it a middle rating not because I did not enjoy it, but more because I feel like there was something lost in the translation.
Jul 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A distant father

Good thing this book was short or I could never had made it through the whole thing. I obviously didn't like it
Jul 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here my impressions about the novel...
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Left me wanting more.....
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
a strong novella about isolation, irresponsibility, and also moving on.
Izzy Peasy
Susan Chow-Dukhan
Feb 24, 2020 rated it liked it
When 21 year old Jacques graduated from teachers' college and returned to the small village of Contulmo a year ago, his father boarded the same train to go to Paris, leaving his family behind. His mother never got over the departure of her husband, and Jacques was perpetually sad, to the point where he wanted to die. This novella is about Jacques's preoccupation with his father's disappearance and his attraction to the older sisters of one of his students.
Antonio Skarmeta was able to create a fa
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Antonio Skármeta (born Esteban Antonio Skármeta Vranicic) is a Chilean writer, born November 7, 1940 in Antofagasta, Chile. He was born to Croatian immigrants from the Adriatic island of Brač, region of Dalmatia.

His 1985 novel and film[1] Ardiente paciencia ("Ardent Patience") inspired the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie, Il Postino (The Postman). Subsequent editions of the book bore the title El

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