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The Distant Friend [a novel]

Claude Roy, translated by Hugh A. Harter, with an introduction by Jack Kolbert
The Distant Friend [a novel]
ISBN: 978-0-8419-1196-3
1990/154 pages/LC: 90030540
Distributed for Holmes & Meier Publishers

"Narrated in an amused, ironical tone that belies its tragic content, Roy’s short, powerful, extraordinary novel is both a rich exploration of friendship and a hymn to our genocidal century."—Publishers Weekly

"I hope Hugh Harter's limpid translation brings many American readers to the fiction of Claude Roy, which has the finely made exactness and modestly sealed poignancy of chamber music."—Ted Morgan

"The Distant Friend deals with history subtly. Two 'Stephens'—Etienne and Stefan—engage in a single martyrdom. Roy's style is traditional, even lyrical, and the whole novel is quite moving."—Marilyn Gaddis Rose


Nothing ever happens to Etienne. Born into a provincial French family, he grows up in the shadow of his ambitious successful brother. His personality passive, his life uneventful, he is resigned to his own inferiority—-until he meets Stefan. German, Jewish, outgoing, and cosmopolitan, Stefan Stein could hardly be more unlike Etienne. Yet, when the two young teenagers first meet, they form a friendship that lasts for five decades, though their lives follow very different paths.

In an attempt to come to terms with the sense of emptiness that threatens to overwhelm him, Etienne resolves to capture the story of his friendship with Stefan and thus becomes the narrator of this novel. From its matter-of-fact beginning to its bittersweet end, The Distant Friend reveals Etienne's sensitivity to the beauty and brutality of humanity, and the book’s creation becomes his homage to life.


Prizewinning author Claude Roy (1915-1997) played a major role in the French cultural scene for the greater part of the twentieth century.