Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Last Brother

by Nathacha Appanah

Inspired by a little-known page of history but deeply personal tale of a brief childhood friendship, told by a man in his seventies. (How, may I ask in parentheses, could this young author write as if she grew during the Second World War and lived a long life after that?) Profoundly moving book, sympathetically translated by Geoffrey Strachan.

I pictured her back in our house in the forest, her shoulders hunched, as if forever prepared to receive blows, I pictured her with her mixtures, her potions and her magic formulas. I pictured her falling over, battered by my father, and I felt the sudden weight of her in my hands. I pictured her with the red parakeet and I heard her burst of laughter at David. I thought about those long months when every morning and every evening she massaged my legs to heal me. And there, this little scrap of a woman, smiling on the balcony, in full, bright sunlight, this was her and at the same time it was not her, and, on the return journey I always ended up in tears over it, this illusory happiness at the end, over all the things that had come much too late to erase everything else.

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