E. L. Karhu: To My Brother

“My brother is a beautiful man who loves beautiful women, but he has an ugly sister he loves too. That’s me.”

Author: E. L. Karhu
Finnish original: Veljelleni
Publisher: Teos, 2021
Genre: literary fiction
Number of pages: 245 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English sample
English synopsis
Rights sold: World French, La Peuplade; Hungary, Metropolis

A greedy, lonely girl watches her beautiful, popular brother atop the sensual bodies of his girlfriend candidates. She eyes their breakfast toast, thick smears of fig jam on chevre.

If someone were to look at the girl, they might see a loser who binges on sweets, devours soap operas, and trails her brother like a shadow but whose manic narration forces one to stare, to look more closely.

To My Brother doesn’t ask any direct questions. Even so, listening to its anti-hero prompts thoughts about sibling relationships, caretaking, lust, and social and sexual hierarchies. It’s an absurd bildungsroman germinating from internalized self-hatred, one that takes place at the fringes if the center is a multi-part mirror. A silver scooter racing at maximum speed. An eccentric is attached to its rotating axel, transforming forward momentum into back-and forth motion.

Which way should you turn now?

My favorite film is called À ma soeur, literally “To My Sister.” In it, a fat French girl heads off for summer holidays with her thin, beautiful older sister. She lies awake in the room the two of them share, listening to her sister take it up the butt so the sister can have sex while preserving her virginity. At the end, during the journey home, there’s an accident that kills everyone except the protagonist. A man who emerges from the woods engages in intercourse with the fat girl, and she’s happy. The director dedicated the film to her sister. That’s where the title, À ma soeur, came from. If I made a movie, I would dedicate it to my brother.”
(Translated by Kristian London)

About the author:
E. L. Karhu