Older Brother is the first book I read from Uruguayan author Daniel Mella, and thanks to that, I was able to remove Uruguay from my reading list for now. This book is a book about death, and I couldn’t have chosen an unfortunate time to read it. I knew it was about death, but I thought I could handle it. I believed it would help me recover and to see other people’s perspectives on death would make me feel less lonely. Unfortunately, it never happened.
On the most stormy day of one summer, 31-year-old Alejandro dies, a bolt of lightning strikes him. However, Older Brother is about the 38-year-old big brother Daniel. We listen to what happens in the family with the death of Alejandro from him. Obviously, it was not easy to read how family members live their sadness and what sadness causes. So this is not a book I can recommend if you’ve lost someone in the near time. But you may want to read it for Mella’s exciting language.
How can we narrate grief? Can we really rationalise death? Pain cannot be told in the present, only in the past; however, Mella chooses to narrate it in the future, as if everything bad is about to happen further down the line until something reminds him that the future actually arrived a long time ago.
During the summer of 2014, on one of the stormiest days on record to hit the coast of Uruguay, 31-year old Alejandro, lifeguard and younger brother of our protagonist, dies after being hit by lightning. Combining memoir and fiction, this novel is the urgent exploration of the brotherly bond, and the effects that death has on our inner circles. An exploration that takes the author back into his past, and right into the centre of his obsessions.
‘If I can t be free in my writing, I cannot be free anywhere else’, admits the narrator towards the end of this fascinating book that interweaves fiction with brotherhood and grief at the centre of family relations.
Daniel Mella is an Uruguayan writer. He published his first novel Pogo in 1997 at the age of 21. Followed by two more novels in so quick succession. He then took a decade-long break from writing. Returning with the short story collection Lava which won the Bartolomé Hidalgo Award in 2013.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: