cover image Brother in Ice

Brother in Ice

Alicia Kopf, trans. from the Catalan by Mara Feye Lethem. And Other Stories (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-911-50820-5

Early in Kopf’s inventive novel, her first to be translated into English, the unnamed narrator declares her desire to create “a new epic, without foes or enemies; an epic involving oneself and an idea.” This declaration forms the central conceit of the novel, in which Kopf’s narrator—a Catalan artist and writer—wrestles with herself, her family, and her life as an artist. Framing this struggle is her ongoing creative exploration into “the place of early-20-century polar explorers in the collective imagination,” which is reflected in chapters dedicated to the history of explorers like Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton. Lovers, friends, and jobs move through the narrator’s world, only infrequently meriting more than a few pages. Instead, the majority of the action is internal, with the frozen poles setting the metaphorical stage for the narrator’s struggle with her own identity. It is an exercise in bringing “a series of metaphors face-to-face with reality.” Kopf’s novel is enigmatic and playful, and what it lacks in conventional story it makes up for in imaginative structure and strong, candid prose. (June)