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Canone inverso : a novel
Paolo Maurensig
Adult Fiction MAURENS

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From Publishers' Weekly:

As he did so effectively in The Lüneburg Variations, Maurensig uses the device of a narrator who opens the novel and immediately gives way to another narrator, who spins a convoluted story within a story, leading to a surprising denouement. Again the time frame is the 1930s and '40s in Hungary and Germany; and though the words Nazi and Holocaust are never mentioned, the cataclysm to come is the subtext in a mesmerizing narrative. A mysterious stranger in contemporary London tells a man who has bought a rare 17th-century violin about the instrument's former owner, Jenö Varga, a brilliant Hungarian musician. In 1932, with his unknown father's violin his only legacy, Varga surmounts his illegitimate birth to win acceptance to the Collegium Musicum, a highly competitive music school outside Vienna. The Collegium is a Kafka-esque institution: the students are treated as prisoners subject to military discipline; they are systematically humiliated and subjected to mental torment. At the top of his class, Jenö finally feels fulfilled when the equally talented and charismatic Kuno Blau becomes his best friend and, in many ways, his doppelgänger. When Kuno invites Jenö to stay at the family castle near Innsbruck, however, Jenö is subjected to a nightmare of intimidation and derision. His friendship with Kuno diminishes into a frightening reversal of itself, a canone inverso. It is obvious to the reader, though not to Jenö, that the outside world is descending into its own spiritual death. The complex fugal themes of Maurensig's plot touch on such questions as the essence of musical genius ("The true musician is a descendant of Cain"), the search for immortality in artistic creation and the growth of evil beneath the carapace of respectability. Some of the narrative is heavy going, as Maurensig's ponderous symbolism and metaphysical exploration threaten to overwhelm the plot. The shocking ending brings everything into focus, however, and renders this novel a tour de force. Editor, Signe Rossback; agent, Arnoldo Mondadori. (Nov.) FYI: Owl Books will simultaneously reissue The Lüneburg Variations in paperback . (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In the opening pages of this complex yet beautifully rendered new work, a man who has just bought a violin at Christie's is accosted by a stranger with a fantastic tale: he once met a remarkable street musician in Vienna who owned this very violin. Named Jen” Varga, the man had inherited the violin from the soldier who left his mother pregnant, and he was talented enough to be accepted at a conservatory that turned out to be horrifically strict. There he befriended Kuno Blau, scion of an aristocratic family, and was invited to spend the summer at the family's castle. At the castle, the friendship entered a "canone inverso"Äa downward pathÄand a terrible secret regarding Jen”'s violin is revealed. But is the story true? The man tries to verify it and finds that Jen” has been dead for years. So who was the street musician? And whatever happened to the castle's old lord, who, it is hinted, is not really dead? Maurensig (The Lneberg Variation, LJ 8/97) sets up a delicious mystery and encloses it within a meditation on music, its true nature (who is the real musicianÄKuno, who possesses his music, or Jen”, who is possessed by it?), and its role in society (the Nazi menace rumbles throughout). Highly recommended wherever good literature is read.ÄBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Kuno Blau

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