Wednesday, 21 June 2006

La musique d'une vie

I'm reviewing this novel for my French oral exam, and couldn't be bothered to think in English to say much about it here, but it's a fab book. Traces the way through a Moscow man's life as music traces its way, helping him to survive, preserving him from being fatefully homo sovieticus. I love reading French novels - where the language and literary skill is as important as the plot, character development, etc. Marvellous. Trouble is, I get too into it - this is my second time through, and I keep forgetting to take notes for the oral.

From near the end of the book, where, having been living for years under a stolen identity, he 'slips up' and reveals himself in music:
Quand il laissa retomber ses mains sur le clavier, on put croire encore au hasard d'une belle harmonie formée malgré lui. Mais une seconde après la musique déferla, emportant par sa puissance les doutes, les voix, les bruits, effaçant les mines hilares, les regards échangés, écartant les murs, dispersant la lumière du salon dans l'immensité nocturne du ciel derrière les fenêtres.
Il n'avait pas l'impression de jouer. Il avançait à travers une nuit, respirait sa transparence fragile faite d'infinies facettes de glace, de feuilles, de vent. Il ne portait plus aucun mail en lui. Pas de crainte de ce qui allait arriver. Pas d'angoisse ou de remords. La nuit à travers laquelle il avançait disait et ce mal, et cette peur, et l'irrémédiable brisure du passé mais tout cela était déjà devenu musique et n'existait que par sa beauté.
La musique d'une vie, Andreï Makine

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Makes me wish I spoke French

étrangère said...

And you're making me ask - who are you, non-French speaking anon?!

Alan Davey said...

Do you think that French novels are written differently from English ones?

Although I am a compulsive reader, I'm a science graduate with a background in computing. Studying at our language school was the first time I had dissected novels so thoroughly. So I just assumed that I had never read my McEwan et al to that degree of detail before.

But you are truly litteraire? And you think there is a real difference?

étrangère said...

Lol, I'm no litteraire by trade - I've a BSc in Maths! I just devoured books since an early age. I think that the training in mathematics (and mathematical thinking to start with) has actually helped with analysing literature however, and appreciating it.

I do think that the French novel is different from the English one, generally. The francophone is much more philosophical, a takes much greater delight in the skilful use of language: the French novel is never simply plot and character, but a work of art. One could argue that the novel is itself an art form, whereupon I'd have to say that most English novels are just very superficial versions of it. Of course, there are great English authors, but they aren't popular in l'anglophonie. Whereas in la francophonie, everyone reads literature, and literature delves deep philosophically into life.

That's my impression. It could be that it's flavoured by a poor experience of English literature! But whereas Paddy Anglophone reads crime novels and romances on the train (if he reads at all), Paddy Francophone reads Proust and Camus.

Alan Davey said...

Maths, eh?

Pure or applied?

Pure surely counts as littéraire!

étrangère said...

Ah, that makes me sing - pure is beautifully littéraire! Pure maths is the purest science and the most scientific art form. I'll stop there lest I wax lyrical late into the night. In fact, my uni maths dept offered us the choice between getting a BSc and BA at the end. I went for BSc though - job prospects took over from artistic appreciation of metric spaces.