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Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

Homage to Czerny (1977)

by Gert Jonke

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Homage to Czerny is in two sections and is in patches rather reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard, though Jonke's style is much less extreme. And there seem to be references to music in the repetitions, rhythms, and structure; in fact, I've little doubt there are many musical references I missed altogether.

In the first and longer section two siblings are giving a party. Just as the paintings they've hung about their estate precisely duplicate the views that they obscure, the party will, they hope, down to each word and gesture be indistinguishable from the party they gave exactly one year before. The premise is all the more intriguing because the painter of the oils and the narrator, an unnamed composer, are the only guests who know of their hosts' intention.

The rest of the book describes the visit a composer (who may or may not be the same narrator) and his brother pay to the music conservatory where they both studied. In the attic from which they cannot escape they find dozens upon dozens of pianos allowed to fall into a state of desuetude.

I was a bit more taken with the first section, perhaps because the second was slightly more conventional: The characters in the latter were better-drawn, the events less unlikely, and the conversations less surreal than in the first.

I don't know whether I'll have remembered the novel as a whole six months from now, but I don't think I'll have forgotten details in it--the eeriness of the North city, the smokestacks of impossible heights, the unearthly weather patterns and the wonderfully absurd explanations for them--nor the questions it inspires. (Edit: After five years I do indeed remember quite a lot about the book; in fact it's about time I re-read it.)
  bluepiano | Dec 30, 2016 |
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