As a writer, sometimes you find a book, you read it, and you’re left with a sense of camaraderie with the author. They’ve written what you’ve been trying to write, an idea you can’t put into words, an image you’re trying too hard to describe. As a reader, the book leaves you unsettled, you’ve been shown something that is possibly terrifying or inspiring, but always true, something that can’t be undone. Such a book accomplishes everything I attempt to do with my writing and it satisfies everything I need as a reader. Among many, Two Brothers is one of those books.
An early work by Basque author Bernardo Atxaga, Two Brothers is a short novel narrated by a series of animals, who are mystically urged to follow, watch, and intervene in the lives of two young men, two brothers. Once you begin reading, the plot and interdependence of the brothers will probably call to mind Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Me, but you’ll find Atxaga’s story is a fable, rooted in the pastoral landscape of the past, set strictly within a small Basque village. From the start of the book, there exists a quiet undercurrent of dread and, because the novel is short, I’m not going to say much more about it.
So, go read it –that is, if you can find it. Sadly, it’s out of print. Maybe with the success of his novel The Accordionist’s Son and the recent release of Seven Houses in France, we’ll see a new edition of Two Brothers soon. Oh, and check your library, which is where I found the book, in addition to The Lone Man and The Lone Woman (also out of print). The newer novels and his short story collection Obabakoak are available at most bookstores and online.