A somber contemplation of brotherhood in the context of Argentina’s Dirty War of the 1970s.
This elegant, essayistic novel, the first translated into English by this Brazilian writer, is a family drama with the dramatic parts deliberately quieted. The narrator’s parents were involved in the resistance to Argentina’s junta, forced to leave the country months after adopting a baby boy, eventually resettling in São Paulo. But though the narrator recalls his father’s office being ransacked and his perpetual fear of “the crash of shoulders against the door...rough arms turning his things upside-down,” the book is less concerned with the emotions of displacement and the horrors of political violence that with the impact their exile had on the family. The narrator keeps returning to the question of where his adopted brother came from, with escalating concern that the brother’s story intersects with those of the families of the disappeared under the dictatorship. The narrator skips around his family’s chronology and moves gingerly around the questions that gnaw at him, which gives the novel’s title a dual meaning, at least; it’s a story about the impact of pushing against political power but also about the silence within families. “I can’t decide if this is a story,” he laments at one point; “I don’t really know who I’m writing to,” he says elsewhere. That uncertainty is a risky move for a novelist, and the recursive, self-questioning nature of the narrative can feel static, a feeling that's girded by the adopted brother’s being described as quiet and painfully isolated. But it’s not hard to appreciate how Fuks is trying to capture the sense of loss that comes with a life that's delivered “an infinity of small hurts.”
Though the novel operates at a curiously low boil considering the turmoil at its center, Fuks impressively inhabits the near despair that comes with the fragmentation of family and country.