written by John Hughes
University of Western Australia | ISBN 9781742583327
Paperback – 240 pages
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The Remnants is a novel about legacy and influence. The central story deals with exile, memory, and loss, as well as a son's terrible desire to exorcise the past and recreate himself. A manuscript written by an Australian art historian is discovered by his son after the father's death. Claiming to have discovered a series of lost paintings by Piero della Francesca in the small Tuscan city of Arezzo, the father's manuscript moves between Renaissance Italy and post-Revolutionary Russia. At its core is the relationship the father has with an ageing Russian emigre, a woman who claims to have nursed the poet, Osip Mandelstam, in his final days. She is haunted by the ghost of her murdered son and the traumas she experiences before escaping Russia at the beginning of World War II. This central story is mediated by the son's commentary. He makes his own journey to Italy, which opens up Australia (and his past) for him in the form of a journey he took with his father to the Simpson Desert.