Renowned Brazilian composer, musician, poet and novelist Chico Buarque has spoken widely about the unknown fate of his ‘German brother’: a child born of an affair between his father and the German woman he met while working as a journalist in Nazi Berlin. Inspired by a re-reading of Austerlitz, WG Sebald’s own investigation of the intersection between history and personal memory, Buarque soon started work on the novel that would become My German Brother. The result is an attempt to reconstruct through fiction Buarque’s own obsessive search for his lost sibling.
The novel tells the story of Ciccio, who finds, among the many books belonging to his father which line the walls of his house, a troubling letter dated ‘December 21, 1931, Berlin’. Upon reading its contents, it becomes clear that his larger-than-life father has had a child with another woman – a son whose fate remains unclear. Clues soon emerge which lead Ciccio to set out on a mission to not only locate his German brother, but also to win the respect of his remote father.
In writing My German Brother, Chico Buarque was driven to find out what happened to his own lost half-brother – whether he survived the war in a bomb-ravaged Berlin, or joined the ranks of the Hitler Youth. It is a project of a lifetime, one that makes use of what was, what might have been, and pure imagination, in order to weave together the threads of narrative and finally arrive at the truth.