The younger brother

By Alicia Plante


Julia Fernández Laín

Foreign Rights Manager

About the book:

In her new novel, Alicia Plante confronts us again with atmospheres full of tension and expectations, along with a search for meaning, embodied in a brother who may hold the secret to our own identity. The writer -who seems to know the soul of each place she describes- plays with ever-changing and surprising backdrops, and now turns to a provincial town, which is a blend of charm and evil that seems to erupt in this “small town” scene. This offers a sharp contrast with the world of industry and finance, where the struggle for power and profit cannot hide its protagonists’ voracious greed, irrepressible passion, the danger of misplaced erotism, doubt, and loneliness.


The images came back with wondrous precision: standing before the wardrobe mirror, he tried once more to straighten his tie knot to no avail. The silk had slipped again in an instant. Too wrinkled, he had said to himself, so many old knots... He wasn’t expecting this, his mother could have washed and ironed it with some starch. Today he was so nervous about the afternoon ahead of him, and what was at stake that he had forgotten all about the tie. Everything, his careful plans for the future depended on making a good impression... He had thought that perhaps if he made the knot below, in the wider part without old, rumpled wrinkles... But then he wouldn’t be able to open his coat because the tie would look ridiculously short. No, it was beyond remedy. He remembered everything: he had flattened it with his hand and pressed it against his chest, knowing that it would stubbornly go back to its original cracks like a broken flower. Angry at himself, he slammed the wardrobe door and his reflection remained inside. He should buy a tie so as not to resort to his father’s again, he thought, but that day... Every Saturday, they had a late lunch at home, as usual, and every Wednesday and Saturday, the railroad maintenance workers and foremen covered only a half shift in the yard, and the family waited on his father to eat together, but he always lingered with his coworkers after work. When Martin was a child, he used to pick his dad up, and they all walked together along the street; the guys laughed at some joke he did not get, but he smiled anyway, because he was fond of seeing his father happy, his cap slanted towards the back of his neck. They marched with long, heavy footsteps, patted each other on the back and understood everything almost without words. Sometimes they looked at him to see if he had understood, and his father placed a hand on his shoulder pretending to control him. He distinctly remembered feeling the weight of his hand, but in fact, he was not controlling him, he was subtly leaning on him because his leg hurt. He never said a word, never, and his mates were unaware that the wound was not closing, that there were bandages concealed by his trousers, and that his wife had to cure the injury, and that he limped a little bit more each day. He was a proud man, his father, they knew that well at home, and no one mentioned the accident, no one asked him about it, the foreman, least of all. She, his mother, had told them that the wound was there, that it was healing very slowly but, since some flesh was growing back, at least the bone was no longer visible, and that they should not bring it up; their father believed they did not notice, so better leave him alone. Now he thought he heard the floor planks where that memory was kept creaking under his feet, a memory so unimportant yet so real that the hair on his arms stood on end, and his siblings’ voices when he entered the dining room, his mother’s back in the kitchen, visible through the half-open door. He knew she was about to have lunch ready for everyone and felt the warm smell of a dish he had never eaten again since then. On this side, little Anita laid the glasses and cutlery on the table. The incident had been but a trifle, and surely Nico had not meant to complicate his day like that at all, but still it was most unfortunate, and he felt he could have killed him with his own hands. His father had arrived, and they were all sitting at the table before their bowls of soup. He could see his brother, sitting on the other side of the table with that little sideways smirk he still had, aiming at him with a spoonful of soup that he was stopping with one finger. He raised his arm to snatch it from him, to deflect it, but he couldn’t and so he raised his voice to forbid his brother from aiming at him. Everything happened so fast: Nico was startled by his gesture, and his finger slipped. Next, he leaped up and, even without looking, Martin recognized the noise of his chair when he kicked it backwards and run towards the entrance door which was jerked open... but he failed to hear that characteristic sound of the door shutting close against the frame, and he sensed Nico’s gaze and when he lifted his eyes from the mess on his clothes and he saw him, his hand resting on the knob, half his body out, standing against the sun that covered him in a blazing golden aura. He did not see his face, his eyes, but he imagined he still had that smirk on his face, as he waited for him. He wished he could tend to his clothes and get cleaned, thinking about his girlfriend, about the tea party they were having later with her mother, when he visited them for the first time, and sat at the dining room table, he had never been invited in before, he wished to wipe the lapel with the napkin again and remove the noodles, which had inevitably messed up the thick, wet wool. He wanted to take off his soup-stained shirt, to wash it... But the outrage at seeing his brother there, as if in defiance, was so overwhelming that he hurtled after him. As Nico dashed down the street, Martin thought that when he was an eight-year-old, he had also been swift like an arrow, but he no longer ran on the streets, now he was almost nineteen and his mind was elsewhere, he had his own plans. His longer legs, however, and especially his rage, propelled him with a speed he generally did not need. Six or seven blocks down, where the street ended and the forest began, knowing that right there behind the woodland, the cemetery was within sight, Nico suddenly stopped when he was about to be caught. Martin took him violently by his arms and lifted him up, surprised to notice that his brother weighed almost nothing, feeling it in his hands, in his arms; despite his surprise, he still wanted to slap him, but right then he couldn't help but think about their mother and how she would insist so that the boy would eat. He threw his head back for a moment and counted to ten. Without loosening his grip over Nico’s arms, he put his brother slowly back down on the ground and stared into his eyes, round with fear. Go on, tease me now.

Translated by Jorge Rafael Abuchedid / Cecilia Della Croce