The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim is nothing like I have ever read before, and neither would you have if you ever get the chance to read this book. This book is strange – it is not even weird strange and it takes time to get your teeth into this one, however once you do, it will be very difficult to get yourself away from it, till you have finished it. What is the book about? Well, here goes:
The story is about one hundred brothers (literally, minus one though) who come together for dinner one night. The objective is to possibly find the urn which contains their fathers’ ashes. One of the brothers is our narrator. He quickly descends from trustworthy and seemingly normal to crazy. But why and what happens to him, is something you have to read and find out for yourself, or else that would be a spoiler and I would not want to do that to you.
The Hundred Brothers quite literally speaking is a stream of consciousness – while a lot is happening, nothing really does happen. Donald Antrim has touched on almost every masculine behavior and thought pattern that there is to cater to for the reader – from pornography to homosexual references to sports to hunting to bullying – all the male archetypes (almost) are mentioned and that’s what to me made the writing fascinating.
A lot of times “The Brothers Karamazov” flashed before my eyes while I was reading the book and why not? They both are about brothers and a crazy family. There is the gradual crescendo of horror from humour and every brother, including the narrator has glaring faults in which we also recognize our own. The setting, obeying the Aristotelian unities of time and place, seems to grow and evolve in a nightmarish fashion. The love and hatred between the brothers is searing.
Antrim has a way of establishing a rational and simple universe, and then subtly and ironically, disseminating it bit by bit, gradually to show us what lies beneath the surface. His writing is twisted to the point that the reader does not want to move on and yet is compelled to do so. His allegories are mischievous and mysterious at the same time.
There are no chapters in the book – it goes on, the premise is huge, magnanimous almost – making the reader wonder, how did he ever get this idea? What propelled him? And then there are the dynamics between the brothers – the way the writer intended it to be portrayed. I do not want to classify the book or the writing to any form. It is best left untouched, however make note of one thing: Read this book and read it one sitting. Let it play with your head. Let it take you on a very strange rollercoaster and by the end of it, you would be wondering why it ever ended. It is that good.