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Fratello Grande – Mahir Guven

There are books that know the truth, Mahir Guven’s Big Brother is one of them. What does the truth taste like? It is sour, bitter, surprising, it makes your nose sparkle like when you drink a glass of soda. It is so clear, if revealed. So incredible to see, but only now that it’s there, because someone told it. Mahir Guven’s novel is not forgotten. You get to the last page (you reread it at least a couple of times), you accuse him of cheating you because it’s not that you feel so good now that you’ve been there in the middle of real life. In a place where everything you think is wrong, sometimes it becomes right and then vice versa. Okay, I’m going to order. Do I start with the writer? Agree. Mahir Guven was born in 1986 in Nantes, is a son of refugees in France, a Turkish mother and a Kurdish father. Fratello Grande is his award-winning debut, like the Goncourt Prize, so to speak. I have to thank them for the beginning of the last two years. They give me confidence in literature, the one that – you know – I was losing a bit. And instead there are these voices in Europe (and not only), which come with crazy stories, pieces of our contemporaneity. How does a refugee child live in France? Guven takes us to the French banlieues. It really does, you understand? We are there on the uber, in the small house, in the narrow suburbs that taste of the world, at the table with the police. There are two brothers, whose names we know are at the end of the novel. For us, I’m Big Brother and Little Brother. The first, Fratello Grande, is the main narrative voice, even if the chapters with by Fratello Piccolo seem to us to be a dialogue at a distance. Big Brother drives the uber, smokes weed, lives with his father who is instead a taxi driver. Fratello Piccolo is a nurse, but he is an idealist. France is not the place where it would like to be, attracted by the humanitarian missions to Syria where they come from. And so it happens, one day, Little Brother disappears. Big Brother is looking for him, waiting for him. Him on the uber, the communist father who is a taxi driver and accuses him of being sided with the wrong side. But Little Brother returns. And with him the secrets and fears of Big Brother. In the thoughts of Big Brother, there are ghosts and horrors. Guven’s novel is written in an overwhelming way, with a style that flows directly from the banlieue and does not ask us for permission, before asking us questions.

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