Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Top 10 books about brothers

James Runcie is an award-winning documentary film-maker and the author of four novels. East Fortune, his new novel, is out now in the UK and coming soon to North America.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten books about brothers. His introduction:
A long time ago, a friend at a publishing house told me to stop "mucking about" and write about family life. 'It's the only real subject. BIG TIP.'

So I've followed her advice and written East Fortune, a novel about three brothers. I did think I was doing something a bit different until I realised there were hundreds of novels about, ahem, brothers and family life. You can't beat it as a subject: submerged emotions, intense rivalries, unrealistic expectations, differing levels of secrecy, betrayals both major and minor, and the genetic identity we can never escape. And if you then factor in the male ego, and tell a story of brotherly love and resentment then surely you can't go too far wrong?
Number One on the list:
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The ultimate tale of three competitive brothers and a hopeless father involves love, hate, faith, nihilsm, despair and patricide. Dmitri, the sensualist, Vanya the rationalist, Alyosha the hero priest may be archetypes for pleasure, reason and faith but each character is much more than an allegorical symbol. An intense interrogation of God, human purpose and the nature of suffering, the book is hardly known for its jokes but Freud called it "the most magnificent novel ever written". Frankly, I'm with Anna Karenina, but this is the gold standard for fraternal fiction.
Read about the other nine titles on Runcie's list.

The Brothers Karamazov also appears on: Top 10 works of literature: Norman Mailer.

Visit James Runcie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue