Monday, June 03, 2013

Schroder & A Life’s Music

A day of finishing books today; recently started two short novels which are both pockmarked by European war, and which both begin with escapes. In Schroder, by Amity Gaige, the central character, who is both Eric and Erik, has escaped from East Berlin and remade himself in America, and in Andreï Makine’s excellent A Life’s Music, set nearly 50 years earlier, a young Russian pianist, Alexeï Berg, tries to flee the Soviet Union but succeeds only in getting to the Eastern front. Both novels are scarred by regret and longing, and both are exceptionally beautiful, in very different ways.

Schroder in particular is really wonderful; it’s the story of a man who absconds which his daughter – a love letter to the idea of love itself, and a mea-culpa of many decisive faults. “You liked the feeling of love”, Schroder tells himself, “but you weren’t interested in the work, so you let go of it”.

The obvious comparison is to Nabakov and Humbert Humbert, but most of all Gaige, who writes a male narrator as convincing, frightening & believable as any I can remember, summons up a tone which reminds me of the nervous, constant, intellectual intensity of Europa/Destiny era Tim Parks. Which is a very good thing.

Might be the best book I’ve read so far this year. And A Life’s Music contains some pretty lovely sentences, too – at one point two men dismount from a crowded train: “After days and nights of immobility our feet plant themselves in the snow with the suppleness of a dance”.

No comments: