The Last Brotherby Nathacha Appanah
In The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, 1944 is coming to a close and nine-year-old Raj is unaware of the war devastating the rest of the world. He lives in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, where survival is a daily struggle for his family. When a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the prison camp where his father is a guard, he meets a… See more details below
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In The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, 1944 is coming to a close and nine-year-old Raj is unaware of the war devastating the rest of the world. He lives in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, where survival is a daily struggle for his family. When a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the prison camp where his father is a guard, he meets a mysterious boy his own age. David is a refugee, one of a group of Jewish exiles whose harrowing journey took them from Nazi occupied Europe to Palestine, where they were refused entry and sent on to indefinite detainment in Mauritius.
A massive storm on the island leads to a breach of security at the camp, and David escapes, with Raj's help. After a few days spent hiding from Raj's cruel father, the two young boys flee into the forest. Danger, hunger, and malaria turn what at first seems like an adventure to Raj into an increasingly desperate mission.
This unforgettable and deeply moving novel sheds light on a fascinating and unexplored corner of World War II history, and establishes Nathacha Appanah as a significant international voice.
"Appanah's descriptions are meticulous, and the heartbreakingly endearing Raj makes for an unforgettable protagonist." —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review
"The Last Brother is a wonder of concision and power. Appanah has created a memorable character that demonstrates the resilience of an individual in the face of the barbarism that we sometimes call history. Appanah's ability to create such a nuanced character and story allows us to step into a history that has remained obscure to many of us. I am a delightfully astonished reader." —PAUL YAMAZAKI, City Lights Booksellers
"Nathacha Appanah's The Last Brother is one of the most beautiful, contained portrayals of devastating loss and profound longing that I've ever read. An older man gives voice and remembrance to his younger self, bringing to vivid life a childhood marked by brutality, separation, and death, but also cunning, connection, and survival. With the lightest of touches, the author movingly conveys a child discovering his own mysteries, then navigating those of a baffling, larger world." —RICK SIMONSON, Elliott Bay Book Company
"Beautifully poised and very lyrical." —CARYL PHILLIPS
"Poetic, occasionally rapturous prose." —KIRKUS REVIEWS
"Reading The Last Brother is like entering into a Grimms' fairy tale where the darkness of the forest is met only by the greater darkness of human cruelty. Nathacha Appanah has beautifully rendered this tangled world through the innocent perspective of a boy who apprehends and misapprehends eventsÑhistorical and personalthat unfold around him. An important story, lyrical, grave, and gorgeously told." —VICTORIA REDEL
“A disturbing and extraordinarily sensitive story around the tragic odyssey of Jewish refugees.” —Le Monde (Paris)
“In Geoffrey Strachan’s sumptuous translation, we follow a fairy-tale flight from persecutions, small and large, that bonds two boys from different ends of a suffering earth.” —The Independent
A short, deceptively rich novel, translated from the French, that illuminates an obscure footnote in World War II history.
The narrator of the prize-winning fourth novel by Appanah(Blue Bay Palace,2009, etc.) is a 70-year-old man from her native Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, obsessed with an incident that changed his life when he was nine years old. With a perspective that more often reflects a young boy's innocence than the old man's experience, Raj describes the bond he developed with a Jewish boy named David, orphaned in the Holocaust, exiled to the island's prison after exiles were denied entry into Palestine as illegal aliens. Raj's impoverished family had lost his two brothers to a fatal storm, and his brutal father works as a guard at the prison. In the hospital (where Raj lands after a particularly brutal beating from his father) and on the grounds, the two boys bond, sharing a similarity of name (each is "king" in his culture, one of the parallels that is a little too pat) and experience (both have suffered deep losses and feel essentially alone). The reader learns from the start that Raj has survived and that David has died, a tragedy that elicits complicated feelings of complicity and guilt in Raj. "What I want to do is tellpreciselywhat happened, it is the least I can do for David, I want to tell what matters, I want finally to put him at the center of this story," he says. Yet Raj can only bear witness, offer his own testimony, with some elements of David's story buried with him. What he tells of David is Raj's rite of passage: "This feeling, like a rising and falling tide of nausea, was the loss of childhood and the awareness that nothing, nothing from now on, would protect me from the terrible world of men."
In poetic, occasionally rapturous prose, the novel extends beyond the Holocaust in its attempt to encompass the human condition.
The New York Times
- Graywolf Press
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- 5.54(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.52(d)
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