PIANO by Jean Echenoz


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The latest from Goncourt-winning Echenoz (also see p. 143), starts well but ends up wan and thin.

In his 50s, Max Delmarc is a classical pianist in Paris, where he has problems few enough to keep under control, especially with the help of his tough personal manager, Bernie. One problem is stage fright (Bernie at times pushes him onto the stage), another is love of alcohol (Bernie steers him clear of bars before performances), and a third is Max’s old yearning for Rose, his one true love, who, through a misunderstanding (not a believable one), got away and now seems lost to him forever—though he still follows women if a glimpse tells him they might be Rose. And then there’s a fourth problem, announced on page one: “He is going to die a violent death in twenty-two days . . . .” This problem, it turns out, isn’t only Max’s, but the reader’s too, since when he does get his death, things go a-wandering. You see, he’s not really dead, or, he is, but that only means he wakes up in a huge clinic, gets surgically repaired, then waits in luxury for a week while it’s decided whether he’ll go to a beautiful but boring park or to “the urban zone,” which is—right, back to Paris, but with orders not to pick up his previous career and after cosmetic surgery to change his looks. A few things happen: Max does go back to music, doesn’t still like alcohol, is visited by Béliard, who was in charge of him at the clinic and is now having an emotional breakdown. There’ll be a twist regarding Rose at end.

A trifle that at times has trouble filling its own pages and is often too coy for its own good. Probably more fun for those who don’t yet know that death doesn’t hurt and that God is a skinny guy named Lopez.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2004
ISBN: 1-56584-871-3
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2004


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