The Family Clause

A grandfather returns home from abroad to visit his adult children. The son is a failure. The daughter is having a baby with the wrong man. Only the grandfather, the proud patriarch, is perfect – at least, according to himself.

Over the course of ten intense days, the relationships of this chaotic and entirely normal family unfold and painful memories resurface. Something has to give. But the son is duty-bound to his father through an arrangement they call ‘the father clause’. Can it be renegotiated, or will it bind everyone to the past forever?

In The Family Clause, multi-award-winning writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri has created a tender, funny and bruising novel about what it means to be a good parent, the difficulty of understanding those closest to us, and how it sometimes takes courage just to stick around. An ode to families, their dynamics, their boundaries and their silences, in all their messy glory, it reveals one of the real challenges in life: how to stop your family defining your destiny.

Published in 2020, by FSG in the US, House of Anansi in Canada and Harvill Secker in the UK.

Praise for The Family Clause

“Strung together, engrossing, minute-by-minute passages become layered, and character arcs grows steeper by degrees . . . Depicting his characters’ perceptions of one another, and themselves, Khemiri (Everything I Don’t Remember, 2016) points to universal truths: in this and any family, roles change over time, and, with any luck, so do the people in them.”
—Annie Bostrom, Booklist

“Satisfying . . . Khemiri succeeds at creating an infectious sense of melancholia as the poisonous patriarch is forced to reckon with the truth. In a slow build of quotidian moments, Khemiri constructs a familiarly flawed universe that lays bare what it means to be human.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s The Family Clause is a bold and remarkable novel—a marvel of form and imagination that is also miraculously full of heart and compassion.”
—Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names

“I was drawn into this fascinating story right from the beginning and couldn’t let loose for days after I had put down The Family Clause. And now, some weeks later, I know I will never forget the grandfather, the son who is a father, the sister, or the girlfriend. They are here to stay in my mind, like those other fictional characters you never meet in real life, but who you would recognize on the street the minute you saw them. Their personalities are far from perfect, but because of that, you love them all the more for who they are.”
—Herman Koch, author of The Dinner

“The Family Clause vibrates with rueful humor and quiet wisdom. The more you get to know the characters contained within it, the more you see how tremendously large Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s heart must be. His redemptive vision is rare and needed in these dark times.”
—Joshua Furst, author of Revolutionaries

“A beautiful study of familial need and mess, in which the universal and the particular play footsie with each other. Deft, artful, but above all insightful till it hurts, this is Khemiri’s best yet.”
—Nikita Lalwani, author of The Village


“Khemiri works impressively artfully with the finest tools of the realistic prose. […] Small means, classic touches, but put into use by a writer who has never been more skilled. Calling the novel well written would be a ridiculous understatement. Literary paternity is quite unilaterally bound by the patriarch’s figure, good or evil: The hero Atticus Finch in Harper Lees “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the tyrant David Melrose in Edward St. Aubyn’s romance. But Khemiri throws down the patriarch in the playground’s bleak ball-pit and describes the claustrophobic existence of the equal father in the society of performance. Manhood’s classic tendency to escape responsibility is intelligently and snuggly placed against another, more well-suited side of the same selfishness: the will to become, or rather to be perceived as the perfect parent. Smart and simple, and with a greatness hidden in the details, in the human patterns that are exposed, The Family Clause is Khemiris best novel – and also one of the literary year’s brightest highlights.”
– Victor Malm, Expressen (SE)

”Full of laughter and identification in equal measure. You laugh, but with the whole body.”
– Aftonbladet (SE)

– UNT (SE)

“It is a rich tale, full of grief and a beautiful language. Khemiri continues to be a writer that should not be missed.”
– Stefan Eklund, Borås Tidning (SE)

“Behold the great innovator of Swedish literature, with an unique ability to fill his prose with energy and vigour. I am infinitely impressed by his fifth novel.”
– Björn Kohlström, Jönköpings-Posten (SE)

“Khemiri’s novel is a subtle uprising, a understated liberation and a tender defence for the trials of upholding a family. It is full of empathy and humour, close to home.”
– Jenny Aschenbrenner, SvD (SE)

“A tender and shimmering novel, that moves without effort and yet reaches so far. A pure injection of vitamin for us readers.”
– Jenny Lindh, M-magasin (SE)

“Funny and heart-breaking.”
– Therese Eriksson, Tidningen Vi (SE)

“The touch and feel for comic timing and the perfect ear.”
– Mats Kolmisoppi, GP (SE)

«Pappaklausulen is an entertaining, thought-provoking novel written in a brilliant language from Jonas Hassen Khemiri, one of Scandinavia’s most powerful authors.»
– Gabriel Michael Vosgraff Moro, VG (NO)

«Pappaklausulen is beautifully written, more concerned with life than literary conventions, with characters that are complex, composed, human in all their contradictions and both intentionally and unintentionally funny.»
– Bjarne Robberstad, Klassekampen (NO)

«I cannot remember the last time I read such a good description of contemporary parenthood.»
– Hilde Slåtto, Vårt Land (NO)