Sunday Tribune (1)

Oh Brother where art thou – Sunday Tribune, April 21, 2002 – by Tom Widger

English, Press  

WITH Milton Hatoum's second novel, this reviewer did something that is a rare thing nowadays, reflected a while and began at page one again. You simply luxuriate in John Gledson's translation from the Portuguese (Hatoum was born in Brazil, the setting for the novel) and it makes you wonder what it would read like in the original. The book teems with the colour of the setting (a supplied glossary explains words such as cupuacu, gazal – erotic poetry – jaraqui, tamtaqui), the exotic language is matched by the wonderfully delineated characters who could only have emerged from such a landscape, or a similar one, in this case the Lebanon. Yet, despite the colourful cast of characters, the landscape, the themes – smothering mother love, unfulfilled longing, displacement and eventual acceptance, the story never boils over into the surreality of magic realism. The period is 1945. One war is ended and, inevitably, another about to restart. Twin brothers, Yaqub and Omar, fight as only some brothers can. In 1938 Yaqub is sent to the Lebanon, where his parents were born before they emigrated to Brazil. Omar stays in Brazil with his parents and is treated like an only child. Another theme […]