Tears in the rainforest – The Daily Telegraph, May 11, 2002 – by Ed Butler

English, Press

 

MILTON HATOUM'S second novel arrives in Britain with a substantial reputation. Like his first, The Tree of the Seventh Heaven (1994), The Brothers has already won the leading literary award in Hatoum's native Brazil, and it seems that none of his considerable narrative gifts have been lost in translation. The story is set in mid-20th century Manaus, Brazil's multi-ethnic Amazonian rubber capital. The main characters, like the author, are of Arab descent – a merchant trader, his wife and twin sons – the elder of whom, Yaqub, is despatched as a teenager to relatives in Lebanon to discover his roots. The early separation from both parents and his grossly spoilt twin, Omar, leads to a lifelong estrangement. Yaqub returns to Brazil a frosty intellectual; Omar by contrast emerges a feckless pleasure-seeker. Related Articles The next Labour leader could be prime minister within a year David Miliband tops two Labour leadership opinion polls It will take more than Jam and Jerusalem to create David Cameron's Big Society Ed Miliband raises thousan

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ds in Barack Obama style small donation campaign British soldiers killed in Afghanistan named as Jonathan Crookes and David Monkhouse Is Labour a party without a purpose?The book's appeal is partly that it dramatises how such a polarity can evolve, even between twins. It portrays not just the inexorability of their feud, but the way it, and Omar's drinking, gradually dismantle the surrounding family bonds. There's the mother, tragically one-sided in her affections, the father, broken by jealousy of the boy who has stolen his wife's love, and perhaps most touchingly of all, the story's narrator, Nael, who we discover is the illegitimate offspring of the Indian maid and one of the twins – but which one? Those weary of the whimsies of magic realism should find this novel reassuringly down-to-earth – if unapologetically bleak. There's no communion with ghosts here, but readers may be haunted by the book's all-too-real environment: a colourfully shambolic and decaying metropolis, lodged in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest.

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