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A Ballad for Georg Henig by Victor Paskow
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A Ballad for Georg Henig (1990)

by Victor Paskow

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English (5)  Danish (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
Only 120 pages long, but there is a whole lot packed in to this novel. The story is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time, and the writing (translated from the Bulgarian) is beautiful and complex. I’m not going to forget elderly, lonely Georg, his art, or his young friend Tsar Victor for a long time.

Another gem that I probably never would have found without my 1001books obsession. ( )
  sprainedbrain | May 12, 2018 |
A small but rich story of a friendship between a young boy and an elderly craftsmen in poverty stricken town of Sofia. Georg Henig is a Czech who is unregistered in Bulgaria. He is a master craftsmen of violins. The story is set in 1950s to 1960 and presents the cultural decline of Bulgaria. Themes of loneliness, poverty and illness with bourgeoisie values of belief in God and respect for civilized life. What I liked best is the friendship between the young boy and the old man.

The author is a musician; sang opera and became a music critic as well as writing this bestselling book in Bulgaria. It was translated from the Bulgarian by Robert Sturm. ( )
  Kristelh | Mar 25, 2018 |
A short and sweet story of the years young Victor spent hanging out with Georg Henig, an elderly master violin maker.

Victor's father plays trumpet, and knows Henig from his musical ventures. Henig built all of Victor's violins, starting with a unique 1/8 size. Vicotr's father is then shocked to find him starving in his cellar apartment.

While this is a sweet story told by a man about the boy he was when he knew Henig, it is also a story about Bulgaria. Henig, a Czech, had moved to Sofia earlier in the century to make violins and train violin makers. After WWII, he never registers, and thus for Bulgaria, he does not exist. Viktor's father struggles to get him a current passport to prove his existence, and then he is still removed from his apartment--undoubtedly the mean neighbors told on him.

Is any of this based in fact? Paskov is a singer and musician--and his name is Victor. ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
Georg Henig is a Czech violin maker who immigrated to Bulgaria in 1910 as part of an effort to develop musical ability there. Young Viktor meets him there 50 years later when his father has a small violin made for the child. Several years later they find Georg dying in his rundown apartment. Viktor’s family helps Georg throughout the rest of his life when no one else will. During the time he spends with Georg, Viktor learns to overcome the despair of the poverty they live in through the values of art, faith, and love.

I really liked this short novel, and as a violinist, I adored how Georg put so much love and soul into each of his violins. Both he and Viktor’s father reminded me of the quote from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath about how man is the only animal that grows from work and takes something intangible out of his physical labor that is greater than the result of the work itself. In spite of the sadness in the novel, it just made me feel good because Georg lead such a good life in adhering to the values he believed in and refusing to compromise them even when he had nothing else left. I think this book will stick with me for a while. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
This was such a hard book to get hold of! The novel is very short (only 120 pages) but it packs a lot into those pages. And I loved it.

George Henig is a Czech violinist and master maker who emigrated to Sofia in the early 20th century as Bulgaria's arts flourished. 40 years later, he is still renowned but Sofia itself is poverty-stricken and the narrator (a young boy) tells the tale. He first meets Henig shortly before his fifth birthday when his father, a musician, takes him to get his first violin. Years pass and, as with the other families in the same tenement block, Viktor (the narrator's mother) is going wild with the poverty and squalor around her and becomes fixating on getting a sideboard. His father eventually decides to make one and stuck for a workshop, they suddenly remember Henig's workshop. And so a new relationship with the master lutenist grows.
At times light and cheerful, at times so poignant I wished I was there to help, this is a tale of poverty (both literal and spiritual), hope, and sadly reflects a demise in culture and the arts. It was so touching how the young Viktor forms a relationship with the ancient Henig and the slightly muddled ideas he then forms of God, ghosts, violins and those around him. The novel showed squalor, cruelty and was overwhelmingly sad. And yet there was always a touch of hope and I couldn't help but love all the characters who we were introduced to properly (apart from Henig's next door neighbours). The overwhelming idea was that poverty is only a material thing. Spiritual poverty is far worse and this novel was rich in depicting how human kindness can make one seem rich. I really enjoyed this and am so glad I made such an effort to get hold of it. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
Showing 5 of 5
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