Although this book was finished in a day, and read in less than an hour, when finished it feels as if you have read an epic, not a novella The novel, a sweeping portrayal of a pianist caught in the drama of war, demonstrates the value of primacy of essence above form Falling in line with the weighty prose of Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn and Tolstoy No anguish or remorse The night through which he was advancing expressed this pain, this fear, and the irremediable shattering of the past, but this had all become music and now only existed through its beauty When first picking up the book my English teacher creds to G Rob , told me to pay special attention to the opening pages The lyrical portrayal of the Russian diaspora , as they embody what Makine refers to as being a homo sovieticus And true to his word, the first chapter was very enjoyable, you could hear the snow storm sweep against the paneled glass of the station The end too was very moving, but the middle of the book lost the verbosity to content, making the final rating of the book a solid 4 5. Masterful Yet another author I ve discovered through the serendipity of a charity bookshop I couldn t put this down From the first word to the last, I was totally immersed not just in the story but in the power of the writing.The narrator meets an old man in a railway station and travels with him to Moscow When he first sees him, the old man is playing a piano silently, moving his fingers above the keys, and he is weeping During the course of the journey, the pianist relates his life story The prose is beautiful, the story full of suspense, raw emotion, and the horrors of life in Stalinist Russia, before, during and after WWII.I m looking forward to reading Makine His works published in English all use the same translator, Geoffrey Strachan, and he is excellent An easy 5 stars from me and the best 99p I ve ever spent. READ BOOK ☧ La Musique d'une vie ⚔ May , Alexe Berg, A Classical Pianist, Is Set To Perform His First Solo Concert In Moscow But Just Before His D But, His Parents His Father A Famous Playwright, And His Mother A Renowned Opera Singer Are Exposed For Their Political Indiscretions And Held Under Arrest With World War II On The Brink, And Fearing That His Own Entrapment Is Not Far Behind, Alexe Flees To The Countryside, Assumes The Identity Of A Soviet Soldier, And Falls Dangerously In Love With A General Officer S Daughter What Follows Is A Two Decades Long Journey Through War And Peace, Love And Betrayal, Art And Artifice A Rare Ensemble In The Making Of The Music Of A Life This is the story of a thwarted life told to a stranger on a train And there s a fair amount of time to tell it The train runs from Siberia to Moscow, but still, considerable compression is necessary The book is short and the end is always near I stared into space a good 15 minutes once it came I had to get my bearings again This is a story that could have been mired in all kinds of sentimental clich The man was, after all, almost a concert pianist And at least 2 moments occur in the tale where I was willing him to shock everybody and play that piano in the room Show them, Alexei Show them you aren t that rude scarred soldier they think you are Show them Because we all love that moment when it is revealed that someone is of finer stuff than we ever imagined.At one point, Makine even winks at this clich , They examined the hole, touched it, laughed at it Then went across the road to collect the German s rifle Alexei stopped beside the piano, let his hand come down on the keyboard, listened, closed the lid again His joy at not feeling within himself the presence of a young man in love with music was very reassuring He looked at his hand, the fingers covered in scars and scratches, the palm with its yellowish calluses Another man s hand In a book, he thought, a man in his situation would have rushed to the piano and played it, forgetting everything, weeping perhaps He smiled Such a thought, such a bookish notion, was probably the only link that still bound him to his past It is a fine tension that is very well played in this book, without a lead foot on the damper or an inappropriate emphasis on rubato Makine writes with class, the story coming out in exquisite morceaux, like the flowers that fall out of old poetry books The mystery of the owner s life no longer resides in the unturned pages but lives instead in those lowly pressings picked up from a kitchen floor. Music of a Life by Andre MakineThis is a wonderful portrait of a Russian musician who flees his life to preserve his life when the artistic elite are being imprisoned by Stalin It is also a portrait of the battered Russians Makine labels Homo sovi ticas people who are so numbed by the unfair whims of those in power as well as their broken infrastructure that they simply bear it It is a cautionary tale for our times.A note The library Kindle copy I read needs a good proofing Possessive apostrophes as well as other punctuation are often missing. For a short book, this packs a huge punch The story is told through a narrator of a Russian man who, several days before his debut performance as a concert pianist, must flee Moscow His is a harrowing tale of fear, uncertainty, determination, and adaptation to a new life as a soldier The emotions are palpable and, in the end, the resolution a relief This book, which was written in French, was the winner of the 2001 Grand Prix RTL Lire and is a great introduction to the work of this Russian author who has been called a Russian Proust and a French Chekhov. Update 8 8 2019 Because Alexe Berg is still hovering around my psyche days after reading his story, I m rounding my rating up to five stars and adding it to my favorites shelf for a reread Sometimes I m too stingy with my fives.Like some of my favorite blues tunes, this tiny novel fed my soul Makine packed an incredible amount of imagery, emotion and exceptional prose into these 112 pages, beginning with a snowed in, overcrowded railroad station in the Urals and its sad samples of Homo Sovieticus, and continuing through the unforgettable life of promising classical pianist Alexe Berg, also known as Sergei Maltsev an identity Berg steals from a dead soldier in order to avoid arrest during Stalin s reign of terror Alexe s harrowing story is told to an unnamed fellow passenger the narrator of the novel on the long, snowy train ride from this isolated railroad station to the city of Moscow It is a story of displacement, risk, survival, love, loss and the encompassing power of music 4.5 outstanding stars, rounded down only because it takes this novel some time to hit its stride due to the story within a story technique I felt Alexe s story was strong enough to stand on its own As his hands fell upon the keyboard the music came surging out, the power of it sweeping away all doubts, voices, sounds, wiping away the fixed grins and exchanged glances, pushing back the walls, dispersing the light of the reception room out into the nocturnal immensity of the sky beyond the windows. This is a novel that appeals to the sensitivity of the reader through its simplicity and musicality Framed by the waiting in a train station, the ride by train through the immensity of Russian lands covered by snow and the arrival to Moscow, this is a story of a life whose musicality although extirpated with brutality by the regime of those times, was mended by its hero with whatever meager means he had in hand The story of a person who longs for music in his life and who, thanks to the power of music on his spirit keeps fighting up to the end to gather together the obliterated fragments of his soul and the bits and pieces of his fragmented life As his hands fell upon the keyboard, it was still possible to believe a beautiful harmony had been formed at random, in spite of him But a second later the music came surging out, the power of it sweeping away all doubts, voices, sounds, wiping away the fixed grins and exchanged glances, pushing back the walls, dispersing the light of the reception room out into the nocturnal immensity of the sky beyond the windows.
At 106 pages, this is a very short novel, but a very powerful and haunting one Makine is a master at finding emotion in small details This book opens with a narrator who is forced to spend a snowy night at a crowded station in the far east of the Soviet Union He stumbles on an old man at a piano going through the motions of playing but barely touching the keys This man helps him find a way on to the train and describes his life story over the course of the train journey to Moscow Like the first Makine book I read The Life of an Unknown Man this is a tale of survival told by an old man This one s life as a concert pianist was curtailed when his family were caught up in one of Stalin s purges he escapes from Moscow and steals the identity of a dead soldier, but is found out when his love of music betrays him Makine s writing is luminous and elegiac throughout I have yet to find anything by Makine that isn t worth reading. Music of a Life is a slim but poignant historical novel by Andrei Makine, a Russian novelist who wrote in French It is translated into English by Geoffrey Strachan who lent it an elegiac elegance.In the waiting room of a railway station in a Russian town in Urals, the unnamed narrator recounts an encounter twenty five years ago with an old musician, Alexei Berg, when they were both stranded by a snowstorm Makine s vivid prose captures the apathy and resignation of the diverse throng of passengers huddled in the cold, trying to find a place to lay down and sleep The narrator s fretful waiting is suddenly broken by a strain of musicThe music On this occasion I have enough time to catch the reverberation of the last notes, like a silken thread from a needle s eyeThe episode to follow moved me In an upper floor waiting room, an old man is mutely playing the piano The narrator is first drawn to the silent flourish of Alexei s gnarled fingers and then is surprised to see the tears in the pianist s eyes as one of his hands comes crashing on the keyboard This choked, yet voluble, communion with the keyboard encapsulates the heart of this story In the long conversation on that interminable train ride to Moscow, what unraveled is Alexei s story and that of the artists and musicians, and members of the intelligentsia who lived during the years of Stalin s Great Purge mid 1934 to the 1940s Alexei s plight calls to mind a similar fate that befell Count Rostov in Amor Towles A Gentleman From Moscow and Dmitri Shostakovich in Julian Barnes The Noise of Time In 1941, Alexei was a 21 year old concert pianist, eagerly looking forward to his debut recital Of course, it did not happen Makine keeps the reader invested in Alexei s fight for his own life and his remaking of a life without music view spoiler Alexei steals the identity of a fallen German soldier and is sent to the war front in WW2 A couple of women who nursed him to health when wounded rendered his battled life bearable Thus,He reflected that there must be a word for it, some key to understanding this suffering and this moon, and his own life, changed beyond recognition, and above all, the simplicity with which two human beings could give one another not love, no, but this peace, this respite, this release, derived simply from the warmth of a handHe heroically saves a general and is deemed an honorable soldier hide spoiler