Foregone: A Novel (Hardcover)
A searing novel about memory, abandonment, and betrayal from the acclaimed and bestselling Russell Banks
At the center of Foregone is famed Canadian American leftist documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, one of sixty thousand draft evaders and deserters who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam. Fife, now in his late seventies, is dying of cancer in Montreal and has agreed to a final interview in which he is determined to bare all his secrets at last, to demythologize his mythologized life. The interview is filmed by his acolyte and ex–star student, Malcolm MacLeod, in the presence of Fife’s wife and alongside Malcolm’s producer, cinematographer, and sound technician, all of whom have long admired Fife but who must now absorb the meaning of his astonishing, dark confession.
Imaginatively structured around Fife’s secret memories and alternating between the experiences of the characters who are filming his confession, the novel challenges our assumptions and understanding about a significant lost chapter in American history and the nature of memory itself. Russell Banks gives us a daring and resonant work about the scope of one man’s mysterious life, revealed through the fragments of his recovered past.
About the Author
Russell Banks, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is one of America’s most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Common Wealth Award for Literature. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.
"Strikingly effective. . . . Banks explores aging, memory, and reputation in thoughtful and touching ways. . . . A challenging, risk-taking work marked by a wry and compassionate intelligence."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Banks, a conduit for the confounded and the unlucky, a writer acutely attuned to place and ambiance, is at his most magnetic and provocative in this portrait of a celebrated documentary filmmaker on the brink of death. . . . In this masterful depiction of a psyche under siege by disease, age, and guilt, Banks considers with profound intent the verity of memory, the mercurial nature of the self, and how little we actually know about ourselves and others. . . . [For] all lovers of richly psychological and ethical fiction."
— Booklist (starred review)
“Russell Banks, as cinematographer, is known to move in close. Foregone focuses his sharp eye on the feints and fictions amid life’s ‘facts,’ as he reveals his fascinatingly fallible character, Fife, whose personal life has been contextualized by history. As we zig-zag through the character’s past and present, it becomes apparent that the writer is simultaneously, and subtly, demonstrating the act of writing fiction. Fife is aptly named; he’s an instrument piercing the soundtrack we call life, as the drummer marches on.”
— Ann Beattie
"Russell Banks is, word for word, idea for idea, one of the great American novelists. Foregone is a book about not coming to a conclusion. Banks presents us with a series of mirrors, some of them broken, some of them intact, and all of them wildly reflective of our times. It is a book about the shifting shapes of memory and the chimerical nature of our lives."
— Colum McCann
"Foregone is a subtle meditation on a life composed of half-forgotten impulses and their endless consequences, misapprehensions of others that are accepted and exploited almost passively, a minor heroism that is only enhanced by demurral. In the rages of a sick old man profound questions arise—what is a life? A self? And what is lost when truth destroys the fabrications that sustain other lives?"
— Marilynne Robinson
“When I read a Russell Banks novel I know that I’ll find not only a good plot but—more importantly for me—characters that will lodge in my heart, and Foregone’s Leonard Fife (the hero? the antihero?) is no exception. I kept turning the pages, mesmerized by the stories of deception (self-deception?) that Fife finally wants his wife (and the world?) to know.”
— Nancy Pearl, librarian and author of The Writer’s Library