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Death and his Brother: A Tale of Unexpected Events

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Death and his Brother: A Tale of Unexpected Events
 Khosraw Mani’s latest novel, “Death and his Brother” – followed by “TheSandy thread”, his fourth novel– is a novel complex in structure, whimsical in its story, and astonishing in variousways.There are two quotes we encounter before getting into the story; the first on is Shakespeare’s acclaimed drama, “Hamlet,” saying, “To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,” and another one from English 19th century romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, quoting “How wonderful is Death; Death and his brother Sleep.”Each quoteis an indication of the author’s grown-up knowledge of classic and modern English literature. The novel’stitle istaken fromEnglish painter, John William Waterhouse’s painting—Sleep and his Half-brother Death,painted in 1874. However it is said that John William Waterhouse paintedthe painting after his two brothers died of Tuberculosis, but does this subject has anything to do with Mani’s fifth novel? I shall talkabout it after I discuss about the author and his previous novels. Khosraw Mani is one of the few writers – including western and American novelists – whose novels have been catchy to me. 
Khosraw Mani, currently living Paris-France, is an Afghan novelist whose novels have been much-admired by the critics in Afghanistan. He is the author of five novels written in Persian/Dari language. His novels are: The Book of Abandoned Names, The Clown and Other Vermin, A little Life, The Sandy Thread, and Death and his Brother.If we flip through Mani’sfour earlier novels, thus it would be: The Book of Abandoned Names, Mani’s first novel, is a book about the intricacy of dream and consciousness.  Mani, the author ofThe Book of Abandoned Names,tries to offer a spontaneous and new definition of Reality, Time, Death and Unconsciousness, in meantime, throughout the book. His second novel, The Clown and Other Vermin, is about acommunist named Ayub, who is suffering from a hard-decease before encountering a clown who turns out to be the symbol death at the end of the novel. In this novel, again, Mani engages his readers with Death, Life, and portrays thedifficulties his characters go through.  “A little Life” is Mani’s third novel in which the characters seem to be experiencing a complicated and different life, sitting and encountering each other in a bar. Aleph, one of his characters, is a dream and shadow of the story named, The Aleph, written by Jorge Luis Borges – Argentinian author. “The Sandy Thread” is Mani’s fourth novel published in 2016.  The story in the novel is followed this way: Nasro, who is the protagonist of the novel, meets with an innocent, little boy named Akhtar in the street. The people surrounding Nasro are, apparently, gossiping that he/Nasro has taken the little boy home to rape.The novel is structured in three parts, and in each part we see Nasro’s metamorphosis in different ways: Nasro the sympathizer, Nasro the rebel, and Nasro the miserableold man. Now, apparently, I seem to be arriving at the edge of talking about Mani’s fifth novel, so I’d prefer to straightforwardly go back to the unfinished statement I made above, because whole this article targets one particular novel –Death and His Brother. 
Thus the story in the Death and His Brother goes: An author living in Paris – as Mani himself does– arrives home from a party at 12 AM. Having been tired of these typesof parties, he doesn’t find himself capable of writing anymore.  Later, the author tries to sleep, but in meantime, he finds it hard to sleep. Now,an hour later, at 6:00 AM, he is falling into a “deep sleep”,whereas in Kabul, meeting with his girlfriend in a café, someone hears about the loss of his family members— a rocket has hitand killed all his familymembers just ten minutes laterhe left home.We follow the accident throughout the novel through multiple narrators: all the narrators are people, objects, or animals;no main character does exist in the novel.Mani’s characters in the Death and his Brother represent and express themselves in their way while facing the shadow and influence of one singledisaster—Death. In the current times Death is an easy-happening phenomenon amongst the people of Afghanistan, and Death and his Brother- if we put in Paul Austerian terms - is the book of “unexpected events” more likely related to death,but what Mani tries to explain is the result of these unexpected disasters layingahead,of the hardships we endurewhile living in a country full of accidents; no, full of identically rigid and unexpectedly wretched accidents.The payoff of the novel is extraordinary—the author gets up from sleeping thinking to write what he’s dreamt when he was into the “deep sleep”. 
In terms of inspiration, “Deathand his Brother”is a novel influenced by multi narrative novels such as My Name Is Red, written by Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk, A Brief History of Seven Killings written by Marlon James, Jamaican novelist and many other multi narrative novels written in different languages. Therefore, Mani’s novel is still a kind of novel containing multi narrations circling around one story– a sort of cliché. Reading “Death and his Brother novel”, I thought it is a novel written under the shadow of Kafkaesque style, but suddenly I found it wasn’t only Kafka who influenced the novel; I could find Vladimir Nabokov’s use of poetic language in prose, Luis Borges’s style, and Margaret Duras’s influences onevery page of the novel.Thosewho call Death and his Brothera postmodern fiction might haven’t understood that this novel is still a mixture of various types of literary schools—Symbolism, Neutralism, Surrealism, Magic Realism and sort of Postmodern fiction, making together a different work.But in general, in many different ways, I would rather call it an “experimental novel”, because use of Meta-Fiction, Fabulism and Magic Realism, intrusion and Typographical Play, Formalism, Words as Sounds Instead of Meaning, Hyper Text, Self Contradiction , and Structures Without plot are Mani’s books’ idiosyncratic elements that make them seemdifferent from the current-ruling mainstream genre in Persian/Dari literature; they doesn’t only differ in terms of using language, linguistic structure, and plot –however the author borrows elements from classic, modern and postmodern literature  – But the innovation and its meticulousness makes us encounter with something we haven’t yet experienced in our literature. As Cormac McCarthy, an American novelist says: “The ugly fact is that the books are made out of book, and the novels depend for its life on the novels that have been written, (Cormac McCarthy, 1992, interview with Richard Woodward, The New York Times).” 
As a result, at the end of the article, I would say that Death and his Brotheris merely an experimental novel borrowing not just one thing, but lots of things from classic, modern, and postmodern literature that have been inspirationalupon its creation.
Khosraw Mani’s literaryworksare indeeddifferent in Afghanistan’s Persian/Dari literature –even in Persian-speaking countriessuch as Iran and Tajikistan– because Mani doesn’t seem to resemble to any of the contemporary novelist. We wish him the best luck, and waiting to read his upcoming novels.