cover image My Brother Sebastian

My Brother Sebastian

Annika Idstrom. Forest Books, $21.95 (130pp) ISBN 978-1-85610-002-1

The first novel by Finnish writer Idstrom to be translated into English unfortunately does not make readers wish for more. From page one, the voice of Antti, the 11-year-old narrator, supplies insights into human nature that might be appropriate to a very intelligent and sensitive adult. Thirty pages into the novel, the sado-masochistic pranks of the school children are no longer believable either. A highly charged erotic narrative that dangles madly in time and space, the book offers an interesting structure as it attempts to superimpose horrors at school with the collapse of Antti's life alone with his mother when she veers off into madness. Perhaps the novel worked well in the original Finnish, but this cumbersome translation cannot handle experimentalism, bogging down even with simple English colloquialism. Complicating matters further are typos and misspellings as well as incorrectly used homonyms. The variant themes begin to draw sensibly together in the third and final section, but by that time most readers will have given up. (Sept.)