Good Reading : June 2010
categorical When it comes to music in literature, I can't help but think of Steven Galloway's The Cellist of Sarajevo. A Canadian novelist, Galloway was captivated, like so many people in the world were, of the story of Vedran Smailovic. Once a cellist in the Sarajevan String Quartet, Smailovic was one of the residents held hostage in the city of Sarajevo for nearly four years during the Bosnian War. When 22 of his neighbours were killed by a mortar shell while lining up to buy bread, Smailovic paid tribute to them by braving the snipers and taking his cello outdoors to play Albinoni's Adagio every day for 22 days. Galloway uses Smailovic's story as the backdrop for a novel about three fictional characters surviving the siege in different ways. Listening to the mournful and beautiful Adagio played on a cello greatly enhances a reading of the novel, if you don't already know what it sounds like. Like Trapido, Galloway used music to help him structure the book: he built the novel to resemble a trio sonata. He wanted his book to have development and stages, and felt that a sonata contrasted nicely with the important, but slow and mour nful, Adagio at the centre of the novel. American author Ann Patchett won the Orange Prize for fiction as well as the PEN/ Faulkner Award for her novel Bel Canto, which also uses music and the tension and drama of a protracted siege to tell a story about humanity. Bel Canto is based on the Japanese Embassy Crisis in Lima, of 1996, in which members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement raided a party at the Japanese embassy residence and held several people hostage for nearly four months. In Patchett's novel, the hostages include an American opera singer, and when she receives a delivery of music from the Red Cross, inter mediaries in the standoff, and sings every morning, the music breaks through many of the language and ideological barriers between both the hostages and the terrorists. Vikram Seth, the Indian poet and writer, has an affiliation with music, having written a libretto for the English National Opera. His novel, An Equal Music, is about an English violinist, Michael Holme, who runs into an old flame in London and immediately resumes an affair with her, despite the fact that she is now married and has a child. Michael convinces his lover to accompany him and his quartet to Vienna for a concert. The book makes many references to pieces of music, and the plot revolves around the agony and ecstasy of the creative process of a string quartet. Many who read it feel they must listen to the music mentioned to better understand the work, and to that end, Seth released a double CD of the same name, featuring all the music mentioned in the book, including the obscure Beethoven String Quintet in C Minor, a piece of music that is central to the plot. Kazuo Ishiguro's absurd and nightmarish novel about music is, in contrast, not about real music at all. The Unconsoled is about Mr Ryder, the 'world's best' concert pianist, wandering around an unnamed European city in a fog of amnesia of some sort, with little control over the oddities of the city or 1800 688 482 | musicaviva.com.au Paul Lewis takes audiences on an exhilarating journey of the senses. Feel the darkness of Mozart’s Adagio in B minor, to explosive passion in Schumann’s Fantasie. Then watch the sun rise, until it blazes in front of you in Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata. SubScribe & Save! Take Four concert packages still available (excl. Bris). Request a brochure and receive a free CD!