Vintage (paperback) UK, 1987
Simon & Schuster (hardback) US, l987,
(Regional Winner (Eurasia) in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize
PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award, Booker Prize shortlist
Translated into Norwegian, Dutch, German, Italian and French

Like Visconti’s film The Leopard, this magnificent novel paints in sensuous colours the story of a family. It brings to new life the ancient disparaged south of the Italian peninsula, weakened by emigration, silenced by fascism.

According to family legend, David Pittagors died as a result of a duel. His death is the mysterious pivot around which his grand-daughter, an independent modern woman, constructs an imaginary memoir of her mother’s background and life. She follows the family as they emigrate to New York - where they find only humiliation and poverty - and after their return to Italy in the 1920s. As she is drawn by the passions and prejudices of her imagination, we see how family memory, like folk memory, weaves its own dreams.



‘An idiosyncratic and haunting novel: lush, slow-paced, sensual, metaphorical and, at the same time, anxiously worrying over the demands of kinship and the trail of history…This is a cultural historian’s novel and the scholarly curiosity that went into Marina Warner’s fine books on female myths and iconography makes for a devotedly careful recreation.’
Hermione Lee, The Observer

‘The Lost Father has all the pleasure of a literary crossword puzzle, combined with a brilliantly realised women’s world…It is Warner’s best novel so far.’
- Lorraine Fletcher, The Guardian

‘Warner’s language and pace astonish and reward. Her characters, male and female, elderly and children, strike again and again the unexpected true note, whether playing, grieving, lusting, skinning fowl for dinner or complaining about politics.’
Marianne Wiggins, The Sunday Times

‘Marina Warner’s fiction has a slow, dreamy quality that is at once pleasurable and slightly sinister…This is a moving book, and a very bookish one.’
- Lorna Sage, The Times Literary Supplement



As he blacked out he would have smiled if his face had not felt as if it had turned to syrup. It was a rush of triumph he experienced, the ecstasy of the sacrificial, but his features were disobedient and he brought his hand up and touched the warm liquid stuffing coming out of his head. He - Davide Pittagora, tongue-tied, indecisive, and withdrawn - had managed to speak out; he heard singing, and the singing was not only the bloodlet from his skull but a wild chorus, giving voice to his joy.

He’d declared his sisters his own, now; everyone would know they
had to reckon with a champion. For that he’d fall and fall again till his last breath. This was the southern land where a woman was worth a dozen fights, no, more - twenty, fifty, a hundred - where the princess in the picture with her hands joined in prayer over the battle was worth her weight in gold, and where, when an indemnity was paid to the victim’s relations after a trial by combat, the price of a dead man was fixed at ten times less than the price of a dead woman. Rightly, Davide knew, for you can only measure a man’s value by his women, you can only appraise a country through its women. The queasiness in his stomach rose; he was plunged into a blood-pudding world where all was dim.

Then there came through the total eclipse splinters of colour, humming as they came. He strained to see them, they were approaching in a heat haze, their shapes resolving themselves, tapering, dividing,until at last he recognised them. Their arms were intertwined as they swung lightly over the earth, and Caterina was dancing along alone beside them; their dresses flared transparent like the petals of sweet peas. Or was it their faces, opening like flowers with honey in their throats? Even the advancing tide of blackness could not blot the sweetness of their chorus, greeting him in full voice as he leant over the balcony; he was singing too, in unison with them, something strong and lyrical, and the doves were fluttering upwards into the dome in the last act - and he was going under, to be admitted to their company in paradise.





© Marina Warner 2011 - Contact