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Jackie Thomae

Translated By Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

Hardback delicately finished in gold foil with coloured end papers | 198mm by 129mm | 512 pages

A novel about family and masculinity, and the question of whether we shape our own destiny – or whether our background and character inevitably shape us.

In Brothers, we meet two German half-brothers navigating their manhood, reluctant to centralise the colour of their skin as a way of defining how they see themselves and the decisions they make.

- MICK who teeters through the Berlin of the nineties. With no boundaries and no rules, the years blur into one big party. When it comes to an abrupt end, all that remains is a question. Time, money, friends, love – where did it all go?

- GABRIEL who advances through his career with purpose and ambition. Moving from Leipzig to London, he becomes a sought-after architect, starting a family and establishing a successful business. His CV sets him apart as one of life’s success stories, until a mundane incident tips him over the edge. A monumental fall from grace, he is suddenly framed as an aggressor: a Black man accused of racism, a family man accused of assault.

The hedonist waiting for his next high, the next wave to ride, the next distraction, and the overachiever who piles nothing but pressure and expectations on himself.

Besides being born in 1970, Mick and Gabriel seem to have nothing in common. Both children of their time, they are also sons of the same father: a Senegalese student in the GDR, who returns to Dakar leaving his sons with only his looks. And life questions to which both find their own, very different answers…..

Praise for the book

"'Brothers' is written in an Anglo-Saxon way that is incredibly intelligent, humorous and entertaining at the same time, and thus brings an otherwise largely lacking quality to German literature." Katharina Granzin, Frankfurter Rundschau.

"Jackie Thomae’s characters Mick and Gabriel claim for themselves what is natural for white males in European society. They do not want to be defined by their skin colour, and yet it continues to determine their lives." Deutschlandfunk Kultur

"Brothers spans a wide arc and follows both life stories, which are also tales about love, family and

cities, to the present day, fanning out debates, fashions and the depths of the decades featured.

Thomae describes all this with a mixture of seriousness and relaxed storytelling that poses major questions without big words. " Berliner Zeitung

“Brothers is a major social novel where Thomae deals with the heaviest themes with astonishing lightness.” Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger

"Brothers is a sweeping novel that can be situated in the American narrative tradition but whose unusual plot about the two very different sons of an African father takes us from their childhood in East Germany out into the wide world to London, Paris and South America. With utter nonchalance, the book tackles topics such as skin colour, success, love, the question of living right and, above all, the meaning of fate, origins and influence. An incredibly gripping read, but Jackie Thomae also manages to weave existential questions and themes into it with great ease, almost in passing.” 2019 Jury of the German Book Prize

"Jackie Thomae’s novel is as funny as it is tragic, touching on topics like racism, family and love. It is about a bygone era – from the mid-1980s to 2017 – and is surprisingly topical. A very readable book with a variety of dimensions in which the reader can become immersed. " Litaffin Blog

"A captivatingly intelligent prose that explains how we live today. [...] There is seldom such sociological intelligence in German prose." Denis Scheck, SWR.

About the author

JACKIE THOMAE was born in 1972 and is a German journalist and writer. She is the author of several works of nonfiction, fiction, literary translations, and audio and screen plays. 

Her debut novel, Moments of Clarity, was published in 2015. Her second novel, Brothers, was on the shortlist for the German Book Prize in 2019 and was awarded the Düsseldorf Literature Prize in 2020.

 In 2021 she was awarded the Lessing Prize of the Free State of Saxony. Her literary translations include Zusammenkunft from the English original Assembly by Natasha Brown and in 2023, she wrote an audio play based on the novel Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo.

Born in Halle, Jackie grew up in Leipzig and Berlin where she currently resides.

© Urban Zintel

About the translator

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp is a literary translator working from German, Russian and Arabic into English. She was awarded an IBBY Honour List title for translation in 2022, and her work has been shortlisted for the Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize, the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize and the GLLI Translated YA Prize. Her translations include fiction and nonfiction from Germany, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Russia, Switzerland and Syria.


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