Brothers by David Clerson

QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9














Brothers by David Clerson

Canadian (Quebec ) fiction

Original title – Freres

Translator – Katia Grubisic

Source – review copy

When I got an email from the small Canadian based press QC fiction , I was happy having seen a couple of reviews of their books they were a publisher I wanted to try to also the news that my great Aussie mate Tony was having his first translation published by them. David Clerson won a prize for his first novel this book and was praised for his mythical prose as a genuine literary revelation.His second book crawling (english title, original title  en rampant ) came out late last year which is great news as you see this is one of those books i just want to shout about.

She had told him that his brother had been shaped from the severed limb, and born with two stumpy arms , imperfect but attached to a body that was intact, the body of his brother, with whom he loved to run along the shore and in the hills, and who like him had deep, dark eyes, the same eyes they both shared, the same look of brother

That same day and the days that followed, his mother told him, she had repeated time-worn gestures, rituals from the dawn of the world, taking care of her little boys, tending to the wound of the older brother and watching the other one grow, and she soon brought them to her breast, like twins born of the same flesh

The Older brother told the story of his younger brother or his arms.

Brothers is a story of two brothers the older has an arm missing the younger was formed by his mother from that missing arm of the older brother by the mother so the older brother would always have someone to be with and to look after. They live on a slat marsh a sort of place that has an area of mystery. They decide to set out on a quest to find the father along the way they meet kids from the next village that make a living collecting leeches ,hence they are called the leeches boys by the brothers on their hunt for the dog of a father ! Then they find a puppet whom becomes a member of the family and they also along the way adopt so pig kids to take home to their half mad mother who makes a living growing goats and looking after the small garden in the end the boys take a boat to get to the place beyond the water.

The sailboat was small and light, made of wood, and it glided on the ocean, attended by graceful seagulls and a few cormorants. This craft was much easier to handle than the brothers rowboat.This time, the older brother headed straight out to the open sea, pushed by fair , warm summer winds.

He had secured Puppets head to the bow o, leaving his figurehead clad in the grey pelt. Often the wind would fill the pelt moving the body and limbs. It seemed to dance at the bow, and it made the older brother smile, a fleeting happiness

In the myth Odysseus is given his Pelt (cloth ) by a goddess ! here is an old pelt and a puppet

This is one of those books that needs to be read to be absorbed. I don’t know a lot about Quebecian culture but I was remind that a surreal in parts this is it is also a way of looking at a world as mythical, like the Canadian filmmaker  Guy Maddin  does in his films I was remind of the sight of the frozen horse he describes in My winnepeg  and we see in the film something that happens but seems surreal and looks surreal , this is the world Clerson has conjured here . The same Mythical feel can be said here of marshlands by their sheer nature breed a surreal nature even Dickens in great expectations has this feel as the young pip describes the marshlands when he finds Magwitch on the marsh.or the woman in Black another marsh land set adventure the sheer barren and changeable nature of the environment makes it a place of fantasy add to this a tale of a brother and the arm brother , Is the younger brother real or maybe like the character in fight club that Edward Norton character creates to forfuil his life .Then we have a nod to classic greek literature this has nod the odyssey not least in the fact that when he returned home it was Argos his dog that knew who he was when he was dressed as the beggar maybe the father is Argos ? or maybe their father is a myth ? A short novella that leads you thinking afterwards and one that I’m sure all my fellow translation fans will seek out.A new voice and the first novel from Quebec on the blog .

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tony
    Jan 04, 2017 @ 01:40:32

    What you said about the similarities with Magwitch and the marshes rings true with me 🙂 About to reread this myself for a review coming up soon, and I think this is the best of the three QC Fiction books so far.


    • roughghosts
      Jan 04, 2017 @ 01:44:03

      It is a strikingly impressive work. Having recently read Czech Surrealist poetry I could not get that imagery out of my mind with this book.


      • winstonsdad
        Jan 04, 2017 @ 06:04:47

        Must try some it reminds me so much of the surreal images Maddin does in his films as well

      • Tony
        Jan 04, 2017 @ 10:52:41

        Joe – I just left a comment on the Mookse and Gripes Goodreads forum, suggesting that this one should be considered for the BTBA this year – lots in common with last year’s winner when you consider the mythology aspect…

      • winstonsdad
        Jan 04, 2017 @ 11:03:18

        Yes can see it doing well in that prize

    • winstonsdad
      Jan 04, 2017 @ 06:04:03

      That’s good to hear tony look forward to your thoughts I kept wondering if pup would turn up that image from the classic film version of the dickens was in my mind when I thought of the marsh


  2. Peter McCambridge
    Jan 05, 2017 @ 14:19:02

    Thanks to all of you for having such nice things to say. When you publish a book you’re never entirely sure what people are going to make of it!


  3. Peter McCambridge
    Jan 05, 2017 @ 17:15:26

    By the way, I also saw parallels with Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy gradually losing his humanity and turning into a pig. Enough to make me reread it when I was editing the translation.


  4. Tredynas Days
    Jan 23, 2017 @ 14:10:51

    Just finished my own piece on this compelling new novel. I’d missed the Magwitch/Pip connections, and others mentioned in earlier comments. The text is so full of resonances from other texts, it’s difficult to list them all – but he makes them all new, and his own – not just for show.


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  7. Lisa Hill
    Oct 04, 2017 @ 23:58:52

    Your reviews are spot on, gentlemen, this has just been shortlisted for the 2017 Giller translation award.


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January 2017


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