A searing novel about memory, abandonment, and betrayal from the acclaimed and best-selling Russell Banks
At the center of Foregone is famed Canadian American leftist documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, one of 60,000 draft evaders and deserters who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam.
Fife, now in his late 70s, 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.
There are many great things to say about this book but just to mention a couple: the descriptions of setting are so well written it is like listening to a virtuoso playing a show piece. Also, the descriptions and discussion of the psychologies of the characters are brilliantly insightful and thought provoking.
Failed to Hold
I plowed ahead hopeful that the engaging stories would add up to more. In the end, it seemed to have ambitions for profundity, but just felt sad and deflated.