Thursday, March 27, 2008

A book after my own heart

Picked up 'Finale' by Michael Wallner in Austria. A book with a played violin on it is always interesting.....It's not available in English, though his book, 'April in Paris' is, interestingly also in Polish - which says something about changes in the UK population (theme for a sociological study...). 'April in Paris' is set in the war, and, it seems like all books covering that period, on the title page shows a young couple kissing.

Anyway, Finale. It's set in Vienna and a distant village called 'Ratten' ('rats' to you!). It's about a music manager (yeah!), who comes back to Vienna after a long absence, for medical treatment. Going to a concert (wow!) he spots a young woman in the Philharmonic (now, I mean, really, that is actually stretching the fantasy just a bit, seeing as the book was written in 2003 when there was no woman violinist in the band, and still isn't as far as I know), who he thought had died in a swimming accident.

He becomes obsessed with her, and as the opportunity arises, he starts up a festival in Ratten where her grandmother (a former VIOLA player - of course!) now lives, still working part-time in the village government (aged 80?). The programme will be the Bach a-minor concerto (we've all played it). In between he comes across, and deals with, all sorts of obstacles, not least his seriously deteriorating health. Since he is the narrator, the book does not reach its actual end.

It's a fascinating book, set in a world I know (including Vienna which I know particularly well early mornings and evenings), including little coffee houses, the streets I know, the vinyards around Vienna, all the aspects of music management. It's great, and unputdownable (also rather short). His writing style reminds me of Elfriede Jelinek, though it's not at all pornographic. There is no stated dialogue - the writing is just continuous, and any dialogue is entirely in indirect speech. Very skillfully done, beautifully written, and very recommendable.