Piano

Overview

Max Delmarc, age fifty, is a famous concert pianist with two problems: the first is a paralyzing stage fright for which the second, alcohol, is the only treatment. In this unparalleled comedy from the Prix Goncourt–winning French novelist Jean Echenoz, we journey with Max, from the trials of his everyday life, through his untimely death, and on into the afterlife.

After a brief stay in purgatory—part luxury hotel, part minimum security prison, under the supervision of deceased ...

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Overview

Max Delmarc, age fifty, is a famous concert pianist with two problems: the first is a paralyzing stage fright for which the second, alcohol, is the only treatment. In this unparalleled comedy from the Prix Goncourt–winning French novelist Jean Echenoz, we journey with Max, from the trials of his everyday life, through his untimely death, and on into the afterlife.

After a brief stay in purgatory—part luxury hotel, part minimum security prison, under the supervision of deceased celebrities—Max is cast into an alarmingly familiar partition of hell, “the urban zone,” a dark and cloudy city much like his native Paris on an eternally bad day. Unable to play his beloved piano or stomach his needed drink, Max engages in a hapless struggle to piece his former life back together while searching in vain for the woman he once loved.

An acclaimed bestseller with 50,000 copies sold in France, Piano is a sly, sardonic evocation of Dante and Sartre for the present day, the playful, daring masterpiece of a novelist at the top of his form.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Piano is not only Echenoz’s best book, it’s also his most personal and most daring." — Le Journal Du Dimanche

"Piano is a euphoric and meticulous book." —Le Monde

"Rarely has the difficult craft of storytelling been as well mastered." —The Times Literary Supplement

Publishers Weekly
Goncourt-winner Echenoz offers a cheeky take on the dubious pleasures of the afterlife in this slim, sly novel, which tracks the adventures of a musician after he dies. Max Delmarc is a talented Paris concert pianist burdened by a terrible case of stage fright, unrequited love for a vanished woman named Rose and a weakness for the bottle. On the way home from a benefit concert, Delmarc is mugged and stabbed; he wakes in an afterlife "Orientation Center," part hospital, part hotel, part jail. In his weeklong stay, he gets plastic surgery to repair his stab wound; enjoys a romantic interlude with Doris Day, a nurse at the facility; and is then assigned to "the urban zone"-"I mean, to Paris, you understand," he's told. There's a brief side trip to South America, but soon Delmarc is back in the City of Lights, under orders not to contact anyone from his former life or play music. Delmarc quickly violates both rules by leaving his job as a hotel bartender to take a position as a lounge pianist in a more upscale hotel and by embarking on a search for Rose, whom he saw as the love of his life despite his inability to connect with her. Echenoz's satiric style makes the somewhat limited afterlife concept work, and he includes some surprisingly effective plot twists. The result is a quirky, slight novel that offers an original take on human potential and folly. Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Apr. 15) Forecast: Though sales may be modest in hardcover, Polizzotti's fluid translation of a book the Times Literary Supplement called Echenoz's best work to date should help give it backlist staying power. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 Beliard, 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565848719
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 3/19/2004
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Jean Echenoz won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt for I’m Gone (The New Press). He is the author of nine other novels in English translation—including 1914, Big Blondes, Lightning, Piano, Ravel, and Running, all published by The New Press—and the winner of numerous literary prizes, among them the Prix Médicis and the European Literature Jeopardy Prize. He lives in Paris.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2005

    Great book

    one of the best books I've read in 2004.Smart,funny,sad, all around a great book

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