Vanessa V. Friedman
February 21, 1997 at 05:00 AM EST

The Hundred Brothers

Current Status
In Season
Donald Antrim
We gave it an A-

Ever since Cain and Abel, brothers have been the stuff of literary legend, and this slim, fantastical, blackly humorous tale of a modern-day family of seriously biblical proportions is a welcome addition to the canon. Doug, narrator and keeper of the family tree, and his 99 brothers have gathered one wintry night for dinner in the family library. During the course of the evening — which quickly degenerates into a kind of id-induced free-for-all — they wound each other with words and actual weapons, divide into cliques and redivide, and evince all the competition and essential connections of those bound by blood and history (as well as some personal eccentricities, such as Doug’s fondness for petting his brothers’ shoes). When the night finally ends, a real and symbolic collapse has occurred amid a ritual that resembles nothing so much as a pagan cleansing of the soul. Indeed, the whole novel resembles a kind of hallucinatory vision, a dense and involved metaphor for family relationships. To read The Hundred Brothers is to enter a parallel universe somewhere between the worlds of myth and mammon.

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