A Stranger at My Table: The Postcolonial Story of a Family Caught in the Half-Life of Empires


Product Details

$22.95  $21.11
Doppelhouse Press
Publish Date
5.3 X 8.7 X 0.9 inches | 1.0 pounds

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About the Author

Ivo de Figueiredo (b. 1966) is the critically-acclaimed biographer of Norway's treasured cultural icon, Henrik Ibsen (forthcoming in English with Yale University Press, 2019), and his next book is the official biography of Edvard Munch, commissioned by the Munch Foundation. In 2002, he was awarded the Brage Prize for a biography of Johan Bernhard Hjort, the co-founder of the Norwegian Fascist Party who later became a resistance fighter and human rights lawyer. A Stranger at My Table received one of the highest non-fiction honors in Norway, the 2016 Language Prize and was nominated for the Brage Prize that same year. Figueiredo works as a critic at Morgenbladet and Aftenposten and is a member of the Norwegian Academy.


Figueiredo uses techniques that are reminiscent of W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz. [...] In passages he dazzles his reader with a mixture of recollections, colonial history, literary references, passing portraits and scenic descriptions. He also includes Norwegian history, social mobility and immigration through the striking contrast between the exotic son-in-law and the mother's family of modest religious folk.
- Dagbladet
In his search for identity and background, the author elegantly depicts the story of his family as an integrated part of colonial world history. [...] The journey into his father's life [explores] different aspects of colonial rule, as well as the various nuances of racial division. This makes this story more than a family saga, with relevance to today's political climate: "Man does not fear the unknown as many think, they fear what they think they know."
- Adressa
Figueiredo writes brilliantly and insightfully about personal things, not least his difficult relationship with his father, without becoming private, and uses a historian's ability to see similarities and parallels.
Best Books of 2016
- Dagbladet
Ivo de Figueiredo adds his own comment to the burning debate about so-called [Norwegian] reality literature. [...] The result is an engaging and very well-written book [...] A Stranger at My Table is a story that spans continents, multiple identities and different classes at one and the same time [...] in the depiction of the fate of the Figueiredo family, where family became their true homeland as the empires and social systems to which they once belonged disappeared between their fingers. Thus, through one man's fate, the author succeeds in asking important questions about identity, origin and the price of migration.
- Sindre Hovden, VG+
With A Stranger at my Table, Ivo de Figueiredo expands our understanding of what prose can be. [...] It is touching and highly personal. [...] He combines first-person narrative with personal inquiry and a scholarly account of history. This makes the book unique.
- Klassekampen
It's impossible to do justice to the complexity of Figueiredo's writing in a review. His lyrical prose is exquisite. [...] What commitment can we Goans make to his story? Can we claim Figueiredo for ourselves? He has no inkling of what it means to be Goan. His only, fleeting, acquaintance with the community has been the Norwegian Goan Association in Oslo, where desultory meetings conducted by disinterested parties held little appeal for him. [...] Maybe we are all just individuals with disparate stories, capable of dissolving and reconstituting, leaving homelands and finding new ones, setting sail from safe harbours and embracing unknown futures. And yet, are we really anything other than the sum total of our shared historical past? Can we ever deny that collective euphoria which transcends distance and binds us together? Figueiredo's story is ours.
- Selma Carvalho, O Heraldo and Joao-Roque
A touching, contemplative chronicle of loss and self-discovery [...] This deeply realized personal narrative of a beloved mother and a distant father, finally understood from the perspective of adulthood, is a moving reading experience.
- Publishers Weekly
Figueiredo is an impressively sophisticated writer [... and a] crucial part of Norway's stellar contemporary cohort of verfabula specialists, pushing narrative non-fiction into the high art category classically reserved for novels and poetry. Notable contemporaries include Karl Ove Knausgåard, whose six-volume autobiography plumbs the extreme limits of verisimilitude, and Åsne Seierstad, author of The Bookseller Of Kabul, a global best-seller. [...] Figueiredo's book is [...] lifted by immensely moving feats of empathy in reaching across time and half the world to plunge towards his father's long-abandoned Afrikander universe of meaning.
- Vivek Menezes, "The in-between world of the African Goans," Mint
What strikes one immediately on reading the Goan-Norwegian author Ivo de Figueiredo's memoir, A Stranger at My Table, is the beauty in its narration. This 321-page account of a man's search for his father - and, in turn, discovering his own community - is rich in some of the finest, very lovingly crafted passages I have read lately. [...It] raises crucial issues of identity, nationality, religion, class differences, racism, and the position of women, as well as personal ones like love, isolation, estrangement, age, grief, and helplessness. In other words everything that matters to us today. [...] The English translation by Deborah Dawkin [...] made me marvel at the movement of beauty between languages and how an outstanding translation can not only open the doors of a work to a wider audience, but also inspire a certain curiosity among that audience towards other works written in that original language, other works written by that particular author, and other works written on that particular theme.
- Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Scroll.in