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Der Klavierstimmer by Pascal Mercier
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Der Klavierstimmer (1998)

by Pascal Mercier

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Dutch (3)  English (1)  All languages (4)
Patricia and Patrice, twin children of the piano tuner Frederic Delacroix, have run away from home, and from each other, but return to Berlin when their father is arrested for the murder of an Italian tenor during the last act of Tosca. For reasons that are not entirely made clear to start with, they decide each to write down their separate accounts of how the family got to this point, then meet again, briefly, to exchange manuscripts.
The narrative thus consists of an alternating sequence of notebooks, one by Patrice then one by Patricia.

As in Nachtzug nach Lissabon, Mercier's main interest seems to be in the narrative process, the way that a character is brought to life by a series of intersecting accounts. The technique doesn't work quite as well as in the more recent book: possibly because Patrice and Patricia are too close to each other. In the later chapters, they seem to lose their individual voices altogether, and their parents take over the narrative.

Failure is a central theme, which doesn't exactly liven things up. Frederic, although at the top of his profession as a piano tuner, is a complete failure as a composer of operas. His wife, Chantal, has had to abandon her career as a ballet dancer after a road accident; Chantal's mother and grandmother, respectively a pianist and a dancer, were both frustrated in their careers by illness. Linked to the discussion of failure is the idea of revenge: this is illustrated mostly through the plot of Frederic's last opera, based on Kleist's novella Michael Kohlhaas, in which a small, provincial horse dealer takes up arms against the Saxon establishment after a thoughtless aristocrat ruins him commercially.

There's a lot of interesting and thought-provoking material here, but I didn't find that it grabbed my attention in the same way that Nachtzug nach Lissabon did. ( )
  thorold | Dec 24, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pascal Mercierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Meijerink, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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