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UK Publisher: Shearsman Books

Goethe’s version of the scholar’s fateful wager with Mephistopheles inspires the central sequence of Faust, mapped onto the figure of the migrant who flees a post-colonial legacy of fire, displacement and climate destruction for a life of eternal striving. As Parmar asks in ‘The Winnowing Shovel’: ‘How is striving itself, as an idea built into literary models and real-life stereotypes of the good immigrant or the model minority, how might striving-in the Faustian sense-provide a way of thinking about heroism, tragedy (modern and ancient) and migratory grief? Who chooses to leave and why, who attempts to return, who stays on, who, to borrow from Bhanu Kapil’s image of reverse migration, is made psychotic in a national space, who is this hero who journeys, who strives and for what? To be visible or invisible? As others have looked to the Faust legend for ways to explore the insatiability of man’s appetites, the questions I put to Goethe’s version specifically bring together three strands: striving as a fear of and countermeasure against mortality; a critique of globalisation and technology; and the female element underlying male aggression, destruction and desire.’ From Goethe to Elizabeth Bishop, Vivien Eliot to Winckelmann, Homer and Marilyn Monroe-Faust’s poems meditate on the accrual of loss and of the impossibility of home.


‘Every generation deserves its own version of Faust. Echoing Goethe’s cross-genre masterpiece, Parmar combines poems with essays, diaries, memoir and searing political critique. Instead of bargaining with the devil for pleasure and knowledge, Parmar’s Faust is a female migrant striving in a foreign land against hardship and stigma, in an antiheroic story about grief and migration, land and empire, seeds and miscarriages, the price of knowledge and the cost of neoliberalism. Parmar uses the second person plural with a frightening eloquence that burns’ —Kit Fan, The Guardian

Sandeep Parmar is Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool where she co-directs Liverpool’s Centre for New and International...