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My German Brother
Cover of My German Brother
My German Brother
A Novel
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An uproarious novel about a man's often sordid, lifelong search for his possibly imaginary half brother

My German Brother is the renowned Brazilian musician and author Chico Buarque's attempt to reconstruct through fiction his obsessive lifelong search for a lost sibling.

In 1960s São Paulo, the teenage car thief and budding lothario Ciccio comes home each day to a house stuffed with books. His father, a journalist and scholar, has spent his life acquiring them; his mother, by necessity, has spent her life organizing this library. Ciccio feels like an afterthought in his own family, largely left to his own criminal devices. Forbidden to touch any of these books, Ciccio sneaks off with The Golden Bough one day to discover a decades-old letter hidden inside. The letter reveals an illicit affair his father carried on while posted in Nazi-era Berlin, an affair that resulted in the birth of a baby boy. The child, along with his mother, vanished into the chaos of the Second World War. Ciccio develops a fascination for his mysterious German brother: a fixation that becomes a mission, both comical and courageous, pursued over decades, through dead ends and embarrassments and cases of mistaken identity.

My German Brother is the project of a lifetime, combining what was, what might have been, and outright fabrication, all in order to arrive at the truth.

An uproarious novel about a man's often sordid, lifelong search for his possibly imaginary half brother

My German Brother is the renowned Brazilian musician and author Chico Buarque's attempt to reconstruct through fiction his obsessive lifelong search for a lost sibling.

In 1960s São Paulo, the teenage car thief and budding lothario Ciccio comes home each day to a house stuffed with books. His father, a journalist and scholar, has spent his life acquiring them; his mother, by necessity, has spent her life organizing this library. Ciccio feels like an afterthought in his own family, largely left to his own criminal devices. Forbidden to touch any of these books, Ciccio sneaks off with The Golden Bough one day to discover a decades-old letter hidden inside. The letter reveals an illicit affair his father carried on while posted in Nazi-era Berlin, an affair that resulted in the birth of a baby boy. The child, along with his mother, vanished into the chaos of the Second World War. Ciccio develops a fascination for his mysterious German brother: a fixation that becomes a mission, both comical and courageous, pursued over decades, through dead ends and embarrassments and cases of mistaken identity.

My German Brother is the project of a lifetime, combining what was, what might have been, and outright fabrication, all in order to arrive at the truth.

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About the Author-
  • Chico Buarque was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1944. He is a legendary singer and songwriter, as well as the author of novels, plays, and screenplays. His books include Spilt Milk and Budapest.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2018
    Wistful novel by Brazilian writer and singer/songwriter Buarque (Budapest, 2004, etc.), one with plenty of autobiography in its pages, of a son's quest for the brother he never knew.Ciccio is a Brazilian teenager who, mostly ignored at home as long as he keeps quiet, acts out in anti-social ways, including boosting cars with his pal Thelonious. His taste is questionable, since he's given to bad whiskey and the first car we see them steal is a Skoda, but Ciccio is a young man of resources all the same; whereas his brother reads only comic books, Ciccio has "sort of managed to read half of War and Peace in French," and now he's trying out his English by sneaking into his aloof, intellectual father's library to read J.G. Frazier's Golden Bough. There, in that great book of shifting identity and parricide, Ciccio--his name a thin calque of Chico--discovers a letter, "written in German and teeming with capital letters," to his father from a woman named Anne Ernst. The letter evokes buried memories of whispered conversations between Ciccio's father and mother of a son he sired while working in Germany just before the rise of the Nazis. Ciccio's search for his missing half brother allows him to give some humanity to his father, who might as well be a bust on a shelf, and it swallows up years. Buarque writes with occasional bursts of lyricism ("jealousy is a tunnel that leads to a tunnel within a tunnel"), but mostly his book is matter-of-fact, and as it proceeds it becomes ever clearer that Ciccio's story is Buarque's, the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction blurred and finally erased. The story, which interrogates the histories of Brazil and Germany as well as the dynamics of unhappy families, comes to an ending that can be seen from afar but that is moving all the same.A slight but poignant exploration of the past that lies tucked away between the pages of musty books, revealing that our parents had lives before we were born.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 5, 2018
    Brazilian writer-musician Buarque’s wistful, bawdy account of the search for his German half-brother is based on the author’s life, according to an author’s note. In early-1960s São Paulo, teenager Ciccio de Hollander discovers hidden in an old book a 1931 letter revealing that his father left an illegitimate child behind in prewar Berlin. Enthralled, he imagines his half-brother while trying to track him down and seducing the ex-girlfriends of his full brother, Domingos. During Brazil’s 1968 government crackdown, police confiscate all documents relevant to the half-brother. Ciccio also loses contact with both Domingos and his best friend Thelonious; distraught families suspect the young men have died in police custody. In 2013, Ciccio travels to Germany for one last try at locating his half-brother. The narrative’s liveliest moments have nothing to do with the search: teenagers Ciccio and Thelonious stealing a car; adult Ciccio imagining great authors attending his father’s funeral; an unliterary policeman named Jorge Borges rifling through Ciccio’s father’s library. Buarque’s novel about freedom and repression in Germany and Brazil is both funny and disturbing.

  • Booklist

    March 15, 2018
    Author and singer-songwriter Buarque riffs playfully on familiar themes?history, exile, Brazilian street kids?but he also hits some wistful new notes, inspired by a real-life family mystery. When we meet Ciccio, our charming but perhaps less-than-reliable narrator, he is a teenager in S�o Paulo, stealing cars and trying to bed girls his older brother has seduced and discarded. But then some old letters hidden in his aloof father's library suggest that Ciccio may have another sibling, a half brother left behind in Germany and perhaps lost to the war. Clues emerge, inviting imaginative conclusions and unverifiable hunches. He finds an intriguing photo and carries it everywhere. Ciccio becomes a licentious, LSD-taking professor, while Brazilian society becomes increasingly dissonant. Will the lost sibling ever be found? Or was it all just a flight of fancy, fueled by survivor's guilt? Blurring imagination and reality, Buarque keeps readers disoriented. Less ambiguous are his influences, W. G. Sebald and Jorge Luis Borges. High-modernist diversions do not obscure the feelings of brotherly pride and loss that reverberate throughout this messy and compelling work.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

  • Anderson Tepper, Vanity Fair

    "Chico Buarque, Brazilian pop legend and one of the founders of Tropicalismo, has developed into an intriguing and inventive novelist as well . . . The language of My German Brother is musical and serpentine, as he unravels a tale that is part historical mystery, part intellectual and sexual coming-of-age."

  • Luiza Sauma, The Telegraph "A fascinating, shape-shifting piece of autofiction . . . There's more than a whiff of Sebald to this potent, meandering mixture of text and image, fact and fiction."
  • Kirkus "[A] wistful novel . . . Moving . . . [A] poignant exploration of the past that lies tucked away between the pages of musty books."
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    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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