New Internationalist

The Brothers

June 2002

Brazilian author Milton Hatoum’s brooding and atmospheric second novel is set in the Amazonian port city of Manaus, among the cafés, bars and market stalls of the Lebanese immigrant community. The book opens in 1945 as the teenager Yaqub returns home from Lebanon. He had been sent there by his family five years previously following a fight with his twin brother Omar. The enmity between the brothers continues unabated and their unceasing competition for the attention and affection of their manipulative mother Zana forms the core of the book. Yaqub is studious and hardworking but nevertheless seems unable to please his mother who lavishes all her devotion on the wilful and capricious Omar, despite his drunken, wastrel lifestyle. Almost a bystander in this destructive embrace is the boys’ father, the amiable trader Halim, longing for the quiet life he is destined never to have.

The brothers’ rivalry stretches over the decades, and reaches an explosive climax which involves brutal murder, a dockworkers’ strike, military occupation and the loss of everything the family hold dear.

The generational saga is somewhat stale and the plot rather threadbare but the book is redeemed by the wonderful, compelling portrait of Manaus, especially the ramshackle ‘floating city’ beside the harbour. Milton Hatoum transports us to a magical boomtown, full of shimmering light, tropical colour and piquant incident. In a dangerous world of shady deals and shifting alliances, the port emerges as not only a character in its own right but by far the most important one.

Peter Whittaker

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 346 This column was published in the June 2002 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on The Brothers

Leave your comment







 

  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

The Brothers Fact File
Product information by Milton Hatoum, translated by John Gledson
Publisher Bloomsbury
Product number ISBN 0 7475 5784 5
Star rating
Product link www.bloomsbury.com

Get our free fortnightly eNews

Multimedia

Videos from visionOntv's globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Books

All Books

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 346

New Internationalist Magazine issue 346
Issue 346

More articles from this issue

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.

Subscribe