The Family Clause

Finalist, National Book Awards 2020 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9780374134327
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers
Jonas Hassen Khemiri

Jonas Hassen Khemiri is the author of five novels, six plays, and a collection of plays, essays, and short stories. Among his many honors are the August Prize, the highest literary award for Swedish literature; the Enquist Literary Prize; the Borås Tidning Award for Best Literary Debut Novel; and an Obie Award. More about this author >

Alice Menzies

Alice Menzies holds a master of arts in Translation Theory and Practice from University College London, specializing in the Scandinavian languages. She has translated books by Fredrik Bachman and Katarina Bivald, among others. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

“The son did as he was told. All his bloody life, he has done as he has been told. Time to change that, he thinks, grabbing a pen. He doesn’t write that this will be the last time his father stays here. He doesn’t write that he wants to break the father clause. Instead, he writes: Welcome, Dad. Hope you had a good flight.”

A grandfather who lives abroad returns home to visit his adult children. The son is a failure. The daughter is having a baby with the wrong man. Only the grandfather is perfect—at least, according to himself.

But over the course of ten intense days, relationships unfold and painful memories resurface. The grandfather is confronted by his past. The daughter is faced with an impossible choice. The son tries to write himself free. Something has to give. Per a longstanding family agreement, the grandfather has maintained his Swedish residency by coming to stay with his son every six months. Can this clause be renegotiated, or will it chain the family to its past forever?

Through a series of quickly changing perspectives, Jonas Hassen Khemiri evokes an intimate portrait of a chaotic and perfectly normal family, deeply wounded by the death of a child and the disappearance of a father.

Judges Citation

Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s shape-shifting, sly, and beautifully written novel The Family Clause is a devastating and brutally honest portrait of a modern family struggling, across generations, to stand together. The novel moves seamlessly across borders, across perspectives with a piercing gaze into the heartbreaking and often comedic gestures that define us as individuals, as members of a family. Alice Menzies’s pitch-perfect translation captures the wit and loss embedded in each line of Khemiri’s elegant prose.