Inhabiting Identities in Nelson de Oliveira's Short Story "O irmão brasileiro"


  • Sophia Beal Tulane University


The existential question "Who am I?" gains new valence for those who suspect a haunting deception surrounding their origins. This theme is central to Nelson de Oliveira's short story "O irmão brasileiro" 'The Brazilian Brother,' published in 2006. In the short story, a narrator seeks answers about his own rnegal adoption to make sense of his identity. His method of doing so- which involves repetition, digression, invention, and contradiction- allows the reader to accompany him in this self-exploration, which draws attention to how language can paradoxically confound, as opposed to facilitate, understanding. By collapsing the real and imagined, and by collapsing two different countries and characters, the narrator undermines the concept of a unified self, proposing, in its place, a plurality of possible and fantastic identities. Without straying from proper grammar, the short story employs stylistic elements to explore the instability of identity and the anxiety this instability can provoke. Carefully structured sentences and paragraphs create ambiguity, leading the reader to question meaning, especially regarding the construction of a national identity.