MUSIC, IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE by Andrew Crumey

MUSIC, IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 This intricate, demanding story of political and personal commitment and betrayal--which won Scotland's Saltire Prize for Best First Novel (in 1994)--introduces a young master of postmodernist irony who will remind many readers of several of the brainier postwar Eastern European novelists. The setting is a futuristic Britain where ``history'' is expected to serve the interests of the state and all dissent is ruthlessly suppressed. A narrator whose relation to the novel he's writing is colored by his own complicated erotic life speculates on the motives (which appear similarly sexual) of his story's protagonist--who accepts open-ended possibility as proof of the genius of Alfredo Galli, an experimental writer whose work celebrates what might be called the principle of uncertainty. (``Galli had this idea that our whole life is just a story, and there are all these other ways the story could go, but somehow they get stolen from us.'') Yet both writer and character seek a conclusive explanation of the mysterious, and perhaps not accidental, death in an ``automobile accident'' of the latter's father, Robert Waters, a historian unwisely involved with both a supposedly seditious publication and a physicist friend, Charles King, with whom he seems to have shared musical and amatory interests. All this is every bit as complex and teasing as it sounds, and the book's obsessive concern with the ethics and logic of settling for received wisdom is further elaborated by such amusing leitmotifs as King's unhappy acquaintance with a probably deranged pseudo-scientist determined to undermine the reputation of Albert Einstein and ``the pernicious ideology of relativity.'' This is a genuine novel of ideas, more than a little disorienting in the early going, as we labor to understand how its several parts will intersect--and surprisingly stimulating and exciting, as we see how Crumey imperturbably puts it all together. A formidable debut, from a writer whose possibilities, so to speak, seem virtually unlimited.

Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14688-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1996




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