Ba and Moon on the Making of ‘Two Brothers’, Part I: Introduction
Set in the vibrant port city of Manaus, Brazil, Two Brothers by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, is an adaptation of the novel Dois irmãos by Milton Hatoum, telling the story of brothers Yaqub and Omar on the occasion of one brother's return home, five years after being sent away because of a violent encounter with the other brother.
It's an intense tale of blood ties, love, loss, and estrangement, brought brilliantly to life by real life brothers and master artists Moon and Bá. In anticipation of the book's release this week, the brothers have shared with us an exclusive three-part look at the making of Two Brothers, starting with a brief examination of why they chose to adapt this work.
“Have my sons made their peace with each other yet?”
She lifted her head up and asked in Arabic, so only her daughter and her friend, herself nearly a hundred, could understand—and so that she wouldn’t give herself away: “Have my sons made their peace with each other yet?” . . .
No one answered.
It was with these words that Milton Hatoum enchanted us and convinced us to adapt his novel Dois irmãos (The Brothers) into a graphic novel. The strength of this premise is quite the introduction to the book. We knew it was a challenge worthy of a new foray into the genre of literary adaptations, which have grown enormously in Brazil — more in quantity than in quality — since we adapted Machado de Assis’s O alienista (The Alienist) in 2007.
It’s the words that enchant us in books — the way the writer chooses them and forms them into sentences, putting together thoughts and creating actions. Words are everything in a novel. So how can we translate all this into a different kind of language? Because adapting is also translating. One needs to understand the original language and then interpret it to say the same thing again in a new language. In the new language, one needs to make some changes to remain faithful to the original story.
“Roll up for the big show, kids! See all your dreams come true!”
The projectionist was talking about films, but he could also have been talking about comics: the seductive power of images, the lines that put on paper the dreams that live in people’s minds.
Those who think drawings will limit the imagination of the reader are mistaken. A comic book isn’t a weaker, easier, or shallower read than a prose story. A drawing is also a translation — an interpretation made by the artist that doesn’t exhaust the possible readings someone might have. The reader of a comic book needs to know how to read the drawings, understand the symbols, and combine the information the art carries with that carried by the words.
At that time, I tried to write other things too. But words seem to wait for death and forgetting; they seem to be buried, petrified, in abeyance; later, they slowly regain heat, and kindle in us the desire to recount events time has dispersed.
You don’t write a book in one day. What can emerge is a spark, a concept so strong that it can motivate the writer to write, for as long as it takes, until his idea is complete on paper, alive and ready to meet the readers and the world. But writing a book is more than just wanting to have it done. We want everything right now, at this very instant. At the moment we have an idea, we want it to materialize on its own. But writing is an exercise in patience, of waiting for the book to be ready without ruining the idea by rushing it. Once ready, the book is eternal.
This is one of the many lessons I’ve learned from Hatoum: to be patient, to walk along with the story, and above all, to respect the book.
Tomorrow: Part II: The Story of a Script. Check out a ten-page preview of Two Brothers below: