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The Last Brother: A Novel (Lannan Translation Selection (Graywolf Paperback)) Paperback – February 1, 2011
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- Item Weight : 8.2 ounces
- Paperback : 164 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1555975755
- ISBN-13 : 978-1555975753
- Product Dimensions : 5.54 x 0.52 x 8.26 inches
- Publisher : Graywolf Press; Reprint Edition (February 1, 2011)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
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At times it seems to me that only two novels were written in the last half of the dire 20th Century. The seventy baleful years of my own lifetime. One was about the Holocaust and the other wasn't. And the former had the greater power. Natacha Appanah wasn't born until 1973. She is the descendent of 'laborers' carried from India to Mauritius in the 19th C by the British, but she writes in French and lives in France. It might seem presumptuous for her to write in the voice of an elderly Mauritian man, a child during the years of World War II, about events that occurred during the exile/imprisonment of European Jews on her home island. How could she know, really, what it felt like? But the novel is not so much about the self-administered horrors of humanity at large. It's about two boys, about their bonding and their desperate flight from torment. And again one asks, how could she know? How could she assume the mentality of a boy born in horrendous poverty and isolation? When Mark Twain wrote his tale of two runaway boys, one white and one black, at least he'd "been there" in place and time.
The astounding thing is that Appanah pulls it off. Her boys are convincing. Her old man is as plausible a reminiscent narrator as we need. Such is the power of the literary imagination. It helps, of course, that Appanah's descriptive style is gorgeous, in French and in English translation. I started to read this novel in French, but I left the book on an airplane. Then I picked it up in English, read about half of it, and misplaced that copy also. I just found the English version again and finished the book in one great surge of reading. It's a testimony to Appanah's skill that I found my awkward coitus interruptus of reading emotionally potent.
I didn't discover Appanah on my own. I took the recommendations of F. Knabe and R. Brunyate, whose reviews of "The Last Brother" are far more coherent and pertinent than mine.
The author, Natacha Appanah, hailing from Mauritius introduces us early in the novel to Raj, now an elderly teacher revisiting the past, reflecting deeply on his early childhood, and his brief but solid friendship with David, having a better understanding at an advanced age of events that happened in his youth. A highly skilled and gifted writer, Appanah introduces us to Mauritius at that time, and addresses a little known historical episode that has long been forgotten. She is able to do this with great sensitivity and delicacy, remaining clear and concise in her telling of the narration. Much can be said about this exquisite novel, and for the reader here, the focus remains on the topic of a lost childhood, caused early by a troubled family with terrible losses, growing up when the winds of war are gusting, and ultimately when a fatal error of judgement by a young unformed mind leads to severe trauma for a boy, who later as a grown man is unable to flourish in the true sense of the word while eventually coming in time to accept what Fate has given him. Congratulations to the author, Natacha Appanah, for her quietly told story and the little sparrows of Mauritius. In memory of the Davids and the Rajs of this world, and in honor of a young child now at peace, who once sang 'Tomorrow The Sun Will Rise Again' - (January 20, 1999 - November 1, 2010).