cover image Older Brother

Older Brother

Mahir Guven, trans. from the French by Tina Kover. Europa, $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-60945-549-1

The lives of two brothers take radically different paths in Guven’s thoughtful and sometimes surprisingly witty debut. The brothers, in their 20s and dissatisfied with their lives, are the sons of a Syrian emigre taxi driver in Paris and a French mother who has died by the time the story begins. The older brother, who doesn’t reveal his name or his brother’s until the final pages of the novel, and who narrates the majority of the story, drives for Uber, serves as a police informant as an alternative to going to jail for dealing drugs, and smokes a lot of marijuana. His younger, more serious and idealistic brother gives up work as a nurse in a Paris hospital to go to Syria as part of a Muslim organization that turns out to be not strictly humanitarian. When he arrives back in France, attempting to hide his presence, his brother must decide how far family loyalty goes. Of the two narratives, the older brother’s complex and lively portion is the highlight. He’s a flawed but thoroughly irresistible guy, and his observations of life in immigrant France are vividly detailed and credible. The novel’s real accomplishment is in depicting the stresses of everyday life for Muslim immigrants in France. This is a winning debut. (Oct.)