Brothers (2016)





Excess and adventure abound as fresh, original writing draws us in to “surreal, hostile worlds.” We meet the leech-boys, a wooden puppet the brothers drag from the sea to become a member of the family, six pig-children, and more, all conveyed in a tone that lies somewhere between delirium and a disturbing dream.

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David Clerson’s Brothers is an original, phantasmagoric piece of fiction that is steeped in myth and fable. In a world of “gruesome, gargantuan creatures, two-headed fish, turtles with shells as big as islands, whales with mouths so large they could consume entire cities,” two brothers set out to find their dog of a father.

A stunning first novel
Beautifully written
Dark fairy tale meets adventure story 

Written by David Clerson
Translated by Katia Grubisic
150 pages • 9781771860864 • 8″ x 5″
FICTION / Literary
Publication Date: November 15, 2016

brothers excerpt


Winner, Grand prix littéraire Archambault 2014

#21 National Post Top 99 Books of the Year 2016

Finalist, 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation



the best book I read all year (National Post arts editor Dustin Parkes)

QC Fiction are translating some wonderful lit from the French-speaking part of Canada (…)  Brothers by David Clerson was one of my favourite books from last year” (Stuart John Allen, Winstondad’s Blog)

“a superb and surreal novella, like an adult children’s story gone haywire.” (The Far South Project Blog)

Brothers is a flawlessly translated, riveting work.” (Canadian Literature)

“By using timeless techniques to distill various traditions into a singular, satisfying story, Brothers offers a genuine example of literary innovation.” (Quill & Quire)

“Possibly the Quebec publisher’s most daring and impressive offering to date … The prose, beautifully translated by poet Katia Grubisic, is crystalline, spare, and unsentimental. The balance is just right… it holds you in awe. It is surreal, grotesque and beautiful in turn … This is not a human tale with a magic element—it is a magical tale with a human heart. Like a folktale for a post-apocalyptic future, Brothers, in all its grotesque surrealism, reflects a truth in which we recognize ourselves, with an equal measure of horror, sadness and shame.” (Joseph Schreiber, Rough Ghosts)

Another gem from QC Fiction … one for the BTBA judges to take note of.” (Tony Malone, Tony’s Reading List)

extraordinary … I don’t recall reading a novel with such visceral impact. The elemental imagery and saga ferocity are intense. Brothers packs a punch way above its 150-page weight.” (Simon Lavery, Tredynas Days)

“Clerson’s prose, as translated by the poet Katia Grubisic, is equally extraordinary. Its fairy-tale quality made me think by turns of Homer, Swift, the early García Márquez, Knausgaard’s A Time for Everything, Kathryn Davis’s Labrador, the darkest passages of Collodi’s Pinocchio, and the wilder verses of the prophetic books of the bible. Brothers strikes me as utterly original, yet at the same time seems as if it has always existed. Turning the pages, I was overtaken by the excitement of discovering a new favorite book, and a writer whose work I will follow.” (Alex Andriesse, Reading in Translation)

“an exhilarating collision of genres … this intelligent and urgently written tale is likely to earn a cult following.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Katia Grubisic’s translation of the text offers flowing, unadorned prose that sings with the depth and simplicity of the story. Clerson’s narrative charms lead us wilfully to unknown and unthinkable places. In the end, the reader is left with a single feather of hope, and the knowledge that beautiful monsters lurk at the fringes of CanLit.” (Montreal Review of Books)

Brothers is a coming-of-age story that develops unusually, moving briskly and capturing the temporal and spatial shifting of a dream … The novel’s distinctive dreamlike flavour is strong and well-executed … a very open, very readable adventure.” (Dan Twerdochlib, The Winnipeg Review)

“one of those books I just want to shout about” (Stuart John Allen, Winstondad’s Blog)

gripping” (Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail)

Brothers is quite simply a wonderful book, a story that sweeps you along … Clerson has produced a breathless tale.” (Tony Malone, Tony’s Reading List)

“My favourite book of 2015 was Ivan Repila’s The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse, a story of two brothers trapped in a well, which burns throughout with the fierce anger of a post-crash Europe – the same anger which has since led to Brexit (and Trump). David Clerson’s Brothers, written in the same year (2013) on the other side of the world (Canada) and now available to us thanks to translator Katia Grubisic and new publishing house QC Fiction, not only tells a similar tale of two brothers, but is illuminated with the same rage … Whereas The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse ends on the verge of apocalyptic vision, Brothers goes beyond it … The older brother’s rage comes from his poverty and humiliation. Once freed it is indiscriminate. This dark fable tells the story of our times.” (Grant Rintoul, 1streading blog)

“A surprising blend of fairy tale and adventure storyBrothers is a violent epic that feels like an ancient legend. A remarkable first novel, anchored in the traditions of another age and carried along by modern language.” (Lettres québécoises)

“David Clerson is a master of the finely chiselled sentence and the disturbing world of the imagination.” (Dominic Tardif, La Tribune)

“Of a violence and beauty all its own, Clerson’s mythical prose is a genuine literary revelation.” (Jérémy Laniel, Les Libraires magazine)

“In barely 140 pages, Clerson manages to weave a tale of almost biblical dimensions.” (Daniel Grenier, Ma Mère était hipster)

“A first novel that is clever and risk-taking in equal measure.” (Les Libraires magazine)


“He was walking on the ocean as one might walk across a desert, an ocean covered in bodies, a dry sea, not fit for life, and he felt his hunger scream from the pit of his hollow stomach.” (The Guardian on hunting for a dog of a father.)

Read Chapter 1 in The Fiddlehead (No. 270, Winter 2017)

Katia Grubisic discusses the challenges she faced translating Brothers in an interview with Asymptote

David Clerson - Photo Credit David Cherniak
Photo: David Cherniak


David Clerson was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 1978 and lives in Montreal. He was a finalist in Radio-Canada’s 2012 short story competition. Brothers is his first novel.



Photo: J. Parr


Katia Grubisic has been working as a writer, translator and editor for fifteen years, and has published poetry, fiction, translations, and criticism in Canada and internationally. She translates primarily from French into English, as well as from Croatian and occasionally from Spanish. She has been on the editorial boards of a number of literary magazines, of the Icehouse Poetry imprint at Goose Lane Editions, and she is currently Associate Editor at Linda Leith Publishing. Her work has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards and the AM Klein award, and her 2008 collection, What if red ran out, won the Gerald Lampert prize.


✓ A first novel with a phantasmagoric narrative

✓ A young translator and poet’s first novel in translation