Category: Vienna

Wolf Wondratschek: Selbstbild mit russischem Klavier (Self-Portrait with Russian Piano)

The latest addition to my website is Wolf Wondratschek:‘s Selbstbild mit russischem Klavier (Self-Portrait with Russian Piano). The unnamed Austrian narrator meets Suvorin, a retired Russian classical pianist in a café and they become friends, meeting regularly in a Italian restaurant. Much of the novel is Suvorin recounting his life, his views on various matters, particularly literature and music but also on ageing. He has given up playing and even going to concerts. His wife was killed in an accident and his children have moved away, so he is very solitary, though occasionally meeting other retired musicians. We learn little about the narrator, who wanted, when young to be an opera singer, but a lot about Suvorin and the problems of ageing. Wondratschek tells his story well, showing ageing and all its problems. This is Wondratschek’s first book published in English.

César Aira: Canto Castrato

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s Canto Castrato. This is by far the longest novel by Aira I have read and by far the most disappointing. It is not an Aira-like novel but a fairly conventional historical novel set in Naples, Vienna, St Petersburg and Rome in the mid-eighteenth century. We follow the story of Micchino, a Neapolitan castrato, his impresario, Augustus Kette, the impresario’s daughter, Amanda and various hangers-on with brief appearances from historical characters such as Pope Clement XII and Catherine the Great. Micchino gets tired of fame and disappears. Kette finds him. Amanda has marital problems. Micchino and Co. help out. That is about it, with a bit of gossip, geopolitics, local colour galore, mild satire and chit-chat thrown in. Aira himself has not been too enthusiastic about this novel and I do not really blame him. It has not made it into English as yet and I cannot see that it will.

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