Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918) 286p.
Since having moved to the US, I have been searching to understand the American soul. Of course, there is no single archetype that represents all Americans. But there are some books that capture an essential part of it, like Roth’s The Great American Novel. My Antonia is another one of those books that puts in place an element of the American puzzle.
Willa Cather writes in a descriptive style that is mostly void of existential reflections. In general this is typical of American literature, but what lacks is filled by sentiment, a sentiment of loss and sacrifice, of striving and resilience. In the plains of dried, red grass waving live a sea’s waves, where roads from afar cross, there lies Mr. Shimerda, the father of Antonia, buried. Mr. Shimerda left a home of friends and happy memories in Bohemia to search for freedom and prosperity, but the misfortune of loss and struggle he did not survive. Antonia finds a new home in the Nebraska country side where she spent her childhood with Jim Burden. Jim Burden finds success in life, but not without ever longing back for the childhood happiness spent with Antonia Shimerda.