Siri Hustvedt

Mothers, Fathers and Others
2021

Simon & Schuster

Mothers, Fathers and Others

Feminist philosophy meets family memoir in this new essay collection from Siri Hustvedt, an exploration of the shifting borders that define human experience, including boundaries we usually take for granted—between ourselves and others, nature and nurture, viewer and artwork—which turn out to be far less stable than we imagine.

Described as “a 21st-century Virginia Woolf” in the Literary Review (UK), Man Booker longlisted Hustvedt displays her expansive intellect and interdisciplinary knowledge in this collection that moves effortlessly between stories of her mother, grandmother, and daughter to artistic mothers, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, and Lousie Bourgeois, to the broader meanings of maternal in a culture shaped by misogyny and fantasies of paternal authority. Mothers, Fathers, and Others is a polymath’s journey into urgent questions about familial love and hate, human prejudice and cruelty, and the transformative power of art.

This moving, fierce, and often funny book is finally about the fact that being alive means being in states of constant, dynamic exchange with what is around us, and that the impulse to draw hard and fast conceptual borders where none exist carries serious theoretical and political dangers. On sale December 7, 2021. Pre-order available now.

Praise

“Another outstanding compilation of essays from Hustvedt…Brilliant and utterly transfixing." —Kirkus

"Profound.... Hustvedt pulls from psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature, and art criticism to make brilliant connections among her takes on the world. Fans of Hustvedt’s work will welcome this, and those less familiar will delight in discovering her witty, lavish style."—Publishers Weekly

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Ramsay was the “angel in the house”, a submissive middle-class woman, trapped into a domestic space, and, as Woolf writes herself, “Killing the angel […] was part of the occupation of a woman writer.” In a new collection of essays entitled Mothers, Fathers and Others, Siri Hustvedt takes feminist discourse to a new level, talking about “the legacy of the Angel” in contemporary Western culture through the prism of her personal life experience as a granddaughter, daughter, wife, mother and a female author.

Sex difference is still a crucial part of the contemporary world – scientific fields, colours and even food are gender-specific: “…steak is masculine; salad is feminine. Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys”. Even in the description of the fertilisation process, the ovum is assigned the role of a passive prize, for which the sperm overcomes obstacles, while recent studies show that this metaphor appears to be wrong.

The essays range from memoirs to anthropology, politics and literary criticism. Hustvedt shares the story of her family to demonstrate the invisible bond that connects us to one another. We are made of the experiences and lives of our ancestors, and their heritage: “…there are the memories of others that we adopt and catalogue with our own, sometimes confusing theirs with ours”.

Mothers, Fathers and Others is a powerful collection with an impressive variety of disciplines through whose prism the themes of art, motherhood, neuroscience, misogyny and sex are revealed. It is an engaging and educational read that makes a valuable contribution to contemporary feminist discourse. —Elizaveta Koloseva, The Upcoming