In his search for identity and background, the author elegantly depicts the story of his family as an integrated part of colonial world history. [...] The journey into his father's life [explores] different aspects of colonial rule, as well as the various nuances of racial division. This makes this story more than a family saga, with relevance to today's political climate: "Man does not fear the unknown as many think, they fear what they think they know."
Figueiredo writes brilliantly and insightfully about personal things, not least his difficult relationship with his father, without becoming private, and uses a historian's ability to see similarities and parallels.
Best Books of 2016
Ivo de Figueiredo adds his own comment to the burning debate about so-called [Norwegian] reality literature. [...] The result is an engaging and very well-written book [...] A Stranger at My Table is a story that spans continents, multiple identities and different classes at one and the same time [...] in the depiction of the fate of the Figueiredo family, where family became their true homeland as the empires and social systems to which they once belonged disappeared between their fingers. Thus, through one man's fate, the author succeeds in asking important questions about identity, origin and the price of migration.
- Sindre Hovden, VG+
With A Stranger at my Table, Ivo de Figueiredo expands our understanding of what prose can be. [...] It is touching and highly personal. [...] He combines first-person narrative with personal inquiry and a scholarly account of history. This makes the book unique.
It's impossible to do justice to the complexity of Figueiredo's writing in a review. His lyrical prose is exquisite. [...] What commitment can we Goans make to his story? Can we claim Figueiredo for ourselves? He has no inkling of what it means to be Goan. His only, fleeting, acquaintance with the community has been the Norwegian Goan Association in Oslo, where desultory meetings conducted by disinterested parties held little appeal for him. [...] Maybe we are all just individuals with disparate stories, capable of dissolving and reconstituting, leaving homelands and finding new ones, setting sail from safe harbours and embracing unknown futures. And yet, are we really anything other than the sum total of our shared historical past? Can we ever deny that collective euphoria which transcends distance and binds us together? Figueiredo's story is ours.
- Selma Carvalho, O Heraldo and Joao-Roque
A touching, contemplative chronicle of loss and self-discovery [...] This deeply realized personal narrative of a beloved mother and a distant father, finally understood from the perspective of adulthood, is a moving reading experience.
- Publishers Weekly
Figueiredo is an impressively sophisticated writer [... and a] crucial part of Norway's stellar contemporary cohort of verfabula specialists, pushing narrative non-fiction into the high art category classically reserved for novels and poetry. Notable contemporaries include Karl Ove Knausgåard, whose six-volume autobiography plumbs the extreme limits of verisimilitude, and Åsne Seierstad, author of The Bookseller Of Kabul, a global best-seller. [...] Figueiredo's book is [...] lifted by immensely moving feats of empathy in reaching across time and half the world to plunge towards his father's long-abandoned Afrikander universe of meaning.
- Vivek Menezes, "The in-between world of the African Goans," Mint
What strikes one immediately on reading the Goan-Norwegian author Ivo de Figueiredo's memoir, A Stranger at My Table, is the beauty in its narration. This 321-page account of a man's search for his father - and, in turn, discovering his own community - is rich in some of the finest, very lovingly crafted passages I have read lately. [...It] raises crucial issues of identity, nationality, religion, class differences, racism, and the position of women, as well as personal ones like love, isolation, estrangement, age, grief, and helplessness. In other words everything that matters to us today. [...] The English translation by Deborah Dawkin [...] made me marvel at the movement of beauty between languages and how an outstanding translation can not only open the doors of a work to a wider audience, but also inspire a certain curiosity among that audience towards other works written in that original language, other works written by that particular author, and other works written on that particular theme.
- Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Scroll.in
– Publishers Weekly
From the acclaimed biographer of Norway’s most treasured cultural icons, Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch, comes a story of a migrant family in search of roots and for each other.
Ivo de Figueiredo’s lyrical and imagistic memoir navigates a difficult search for the origins of his estranged father, which opens a door to a family history spanning four continents, five centuries and the rise and fall of two empires. At the age of 45, Figueiredo traces his father’s family in the diaspora. Having emigrated from the Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India to British East Africa, and later to the West, his father’s ancestors were Indians with European ways and values—trusted servants of the imperial powers. But in postcolonial times they became homeless, redundant, caught between the age of empires and the age of nations.
With lush descriptions and forthcoming honesty, A Stranger at My Table tells the story of a family unwittingly tied to two European empires, who paid the price for their downfall, weathering revolution and many forms of prejudice. The author’s trove of often-strange photographs, letters and recordings as well as his eye for the smallest details and double-meanings lead the reader down a mysterious path as his search for his family’s heritage results in a surprising reunification with his father and reconciliation with his past.
Praise for Henrik Ibsen. The Man and the Mask, 2019
Ivo de Figueiredo’s work marks the high point in the long line of biographies of Ibsen that have been published since 1888.
This Ibsen-biography shares the quality of its subject: It is unsurpassable. […] Anybody with the slightest interest in literature should indulge in a meeting with the most important Norwegian contribution to world literature: The works of Henrik Ibsen. Outside of the plays themselves, there is no better place to start than Ivo de Figueiredo’s two books, “The Man” (2006) and “The Mask” (2007).
A jubilant outcry … it is this literary composition that makes Ivo de Figueiredo revise our understanding of Ibsen.
– Dag Solstad
Praise for Sleeping Sinner, The Køber Case. A true story of spiritualism, love and a possible murder, 2010
The book is so well written that I almost forgot that it was a book. It resembles a film or a court case. Figueiredo’s trick is to focus on the unsolved parts of the case […] Figueiredo deserves gratitude and admiration.
Wonderfully fascinating reading. Exciting like a crime novel, but from real life.
Electrifyingly well written. The historian and writer, Ivo de Figueiredo, stylistically just gets better and better […] It is like a thriller you cannot put down.