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Ravel: A Novel by Jean Echenoz

Ravel: A Novel (original 2005; edition 2011)

by Jean Echenoz

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2381348,487 (3.72)55
Title:Ravel: A Novel
Authors:Jean Echenoz
Info:New Press, The (2011), Paperback, 128 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:biography, fiction, music

Work details

Ravel by Jean Echenoz (2005)

  1. 10
    Running by Jean Echenoz (lewbs)
    lewbs: Another biography by the same author.
  2. 00
    Lightning by Jean Echenoz (lewbs)
    lewbs: Another biography by the same author.
  3. 00
    A Ravel reader : correspondence, articles, interviews by Maurice Ravel (marietherese)

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English (9)  French (3)  Spanish (1)  All (13)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
A novel that seems more like a biography, Ravel has everything within its pages that makes you want to travel and explore, want to listen to music or do something grand. The story begins letting you know how it will end, telling you exactly how long it will be until Ravel's death, but then you want more. By the very nature of the writing, you want to find out what is going to happen, even the tiny little details are made somehow magical with the style the author has used. It is good to see someone depicted as a human with flaws as well as greatness and it was interesting to see how others related to him as things happened that they could not control. A short novel that lengthens everything in just the right places, even if they are sometimes unusual ones. ( )
  mirrani | Oct 30, 2013 |
A charming little book about the end of Ravel's life. It's marketed as fiction, but really feels more like a well-researched biography, albeit the fact that it covers a lot of ground in a few pages. There aren't a lot of details but the details and description that are there are all the more poignant. It made me want to go find a real biography of Ravel to find out more about this curious man. ( )
  nicole_a_davis | Dec 17, 2012 |
This book of fiction recreates the last ten years of the life of Maurice Ravel, the composer of Bolero and Concerto in D for the Left hand. Echenoz brings to life the domestic life of Ravel in his various dwellings, and his relations with friends often fractious or diffident. Echenoz follows Ravel abroad on his trip to the United States, where he had pretty luxurious accommodations on the Steamship, France. Ravel's journeys and concert while world-winding through America are recounted. The best sections deal with his Bolero (1927) and the two concertos written almost simultaneously in 1930-31. Many catered to Ravel, and many loved him, but he never thought he was fully appreciated. He was very particular about his dress, really foppish in many ways. His decline at the end of life was rather sad. Echenoz is somewhat reflective of the Oulipo's attention to small details, although he doesn't play with them. A worthwhile read. ( )
  vpfluke | Jun 26, 2011 |
This is, I suppose, technically a novella, but in actual fact it's more a series of vignettes or impressions: suitable, given that many of the subject's best works are episodic piano works such as Le Tombeau de Couperin and Valses nobles et sentimentales. I loved this book, not just because I enjoy Ravel's music, but because of the way Echenoz deftly weaves together minor themes -- the composer's patent-leather shoes ("without which he is nothing") and passion for very rare steaks -- with the major ones of creativity and mortality.

Echenoz chose to skim over the last decade of Ravel's life; after showing the reader the composer about to embark on a triumphal tour of the United States at the outset, he states bluntly that Ravel would live for only another decade. And the final third of the book, indeed, shows us his gradual mental and physical deterioration and the impact of frustrated creativity in a few heartbreakingly well-chosen words. The writing is sometimes jarringly vivid, as when Echenoz describes Ravel's hands ("too-short, gnarled, somewhat squared-off fingers" and "exceptionally powerful thumbs, the thumbs of a strangler, easily dislocated and set high on the palm"), sometimes laugh-out-loud witty, as when several young women, acolytes, hoist Ravel's suitcase into a first-class train carriage ("The luggage is quite heavy, but these young women are so very fond of music") or a pianist's mangling of Ravel's careful composition (he was "ornamenting phrases that never hurt a soul.")

Echenoz describes the composition of some of Ravel's latest and best-known works, including Bolero ("a thing that self-destructs, a score without music, an orchestral factory without a purpose, a suicide whose weapon is the simple swelling of sound"), but what he is really describing is the slow death of a creative genius. At first the topic is that of insomnia and Ravel's battles with it, such as his attempts to find "the best position, the ideal accomodation of the organism called Ravel to the piece of furniture called Ravel's bed". But really, sleep is a proxy for death, which also elude Ravel as his creative faculties fade. Like sleep, of which Echenoz writes "In a pinch you can feel it settling in, but you can't any more see it than you can look directly at the sun. It will be sleep that grabs you from behind, or from just out of sight", death is an elusive surcease. An impressive and beautifully-written book; I'm off to seek out more of Echenoz's work. 4.6 stars, highly recommended ( )
11 vote Chatterbox | Jan 4, 2011 |
Ravel by Jean Echenoz is the tragedy of Maurice Ravel, a delicate man who composed beautiful music but was burdened by illness, boredom, and sleep deprivation. I am, I suppose I should say, taking the authors word on the 'beautiful music' opinion, as I've never listened to it. And therein may lay the problem with the novel, for me.

I was not that impressed by Ravel in the beginning. In fact, I was quite bored with it. The foreword touted brilliant authorship and whatnot, as forewords tend to do, but I was not seeing this. Ravel was, to be honest, an annoyance. I just didn't like him at first. Neither did I like Echenoz's writing. I was afraid I was in for 120 pages of disappointment.

Fortunately, as often is the case, I began to like the main character and the author's prose began to make sense after awhile. Ravel is very human, and Echenoz's writing makes this clearly evident. Ravel comes off as prissy and dainty at first and, as small hints about his struggles with illness were introduced, I began to feel sorry for the poor little guy. Many aspects of his personality are on display, positive and negative, which adds to the authenticity and realism to this fictionalized biography.

It wasn't all perfect. My opinion of the novel seemed to shift rapidly, literally from page to page at times, from absolutely loving it and not enjoying it in the least bit. At times I thought it was a brilliant piece of literature and an amazing representation of Ravels life, and at times I thought it was just a poorly written character study involving a bland composer. After finishing it, I wish it were both longer and shorter. I wish some parts of it were removed and other parts fleshed out a bit more, there are aspects that I loved and others that I hated. But did I like it? Well, certainly, and I imagine I would recommend this to others as well, if not only to hear others' opinions of it. But as for my rating for the book, I'm lumping it in with "average." ( )
5 vote Ape | Jun 14, 2010 |
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Jean Echenozprimary authorall editionscalculated
Coverdale, LindaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"A bestseller in France, Ravel is a beguiling and original evocation of the last ten years in the life of the musical genius Ravel, written by the novelist Jean Echenoz. The book opens in 1927 as Maurice Ravel - dandy, eccentric, and curmudgeon - voyages across the Atlantic aboard the luxurious ocean liner The France to begin his triumphant grand tour across the United States. Ravel travels across America, playing in grand concert halls from Boston to Chicago to California, meeting luminaries of the day including Stravinsky, Mahler, Bartok, Toscanini, Gershwin, and even Charlie Chaplin." "Echenoz captures the folly of the era as well as its genius, concentrating both on Ravel's personal life - sartorially and socially splendid - and on his most successful compositions from 1927 to 1937. Illuminated by flashes of Echenoz's characteristically sly humor, Ravel is not just a quirky portrait of a famous musician coping with the ups and downs of his illustrious career but also a farewell to a dignified and lonely man going reluctantly into the night."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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