Day 2: Brother in Ice

Across the first month of 2020, Sophie Baggott is sharing her thirty favourite books by women from across the world. Find out more about her project to read women writers from every country worldwide here.

It was around two hot chocolates in on an overcast August (!) afternoon that I realised how much of a personal connection I’d have with, Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf (tr. Mara Faye Letham), a novel-notes-autofiction-travelogue book which really is as composite as all that. This came about in (i) the narrator’s recollections of moulding herself to fit with her brother’s autism (ii) her appetite for exploring the unknown (iii) her curiosity about language – Catalan to her felt reminiscent of what my Welsh language is to me. A unique, exquisite book.

Falling in love with Brother in Ice, over hot chocolate
Falling in love with Brother in Ice, over hot chocolate

In a nutshell: A pure expanse of curiosity about polar exploration conceals, at first, the most pressing exploration in this book: selfhood, in the midst of challenging family relations.

To pluck out a line: “It’s in relationships, and not in places, that we rest”.

If I had to choose one image: Kopf reveals her secret thought: all pools are interconnected, and this same water filters through us – making up 70% of our bodies – while the dry 30% of our bodies renews every seven years; the only continuous part of us is our history.

Sharing a thought: The narrator’s reflections on growing up with an autistic brother resonated strongly with me as the sister to an autistic brother myself – at one point she says she had to be an easy presence, independent, and describes a thin layer of ice forming between her and the others, almost paralleling her brother’s attitude.

Fact: The earliest one in the book stuck with me – the word ‘Arctic’ comes from the Greek word ‘árktikos’ meaning ‘near the bear’ while ‘Antarctic’ is from ‘antárktikos’, ‘the place with no bears’, but rather penguins

If you’d like to read Brother in Ice, visit here.

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