Piano Music for Four Hands

Overview

Piano Music for Four Hands is a novel about music and love set against three generations of French history. At its center is a charming but melancholy pianist named Michel Mailhoc. Having survived a series of bungled love affairs and professional disappointments, he retreats to his family house in the Pyrenees. The bright spot in his life is his grandniece Emma, who becomes his prizewinning student. Struggling with his fervent desire for her success and the fear of losing her, Michel sends Emma into the world of ...
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Overview

Piano Music for Four Hands is a novel about music and love set against three generations of French history. At its center is a charming but melancholy pianist named Michel Mailhoc. Having survived a series of bungled love affairs and professional disappointments, he retreats to his family house in the Pyrenees. The bright spot in his life is his grandniece Emma, who becomes his prizewinning student. Struggling with his fervent desire for her success and the fear of losing her, Michel sends Emma into the world of international musical stardom that he has renounced for himself. The Mailhoc family saga, stretching from World War I to the turbulent 1960s, is full of sorrow, but the underlying melody remains tender and humorous. From the first sentence we feel curiously at home in Roger Grenier's intimate, precise, and musical writing.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Piano for Four Hands, a slim fiction by novelist and critic Roger Grenier, tells the story of aging, melancholy pianist Michel Mailhoc, who disdains worldly pleasures after a series of failed love affairs, and retreats to his family home in the Pyrenees. His only delight is his grand-niece, Emma, whom he trains to reap the accolades he scorned. Translated from the French by Alice Kaplan, a superb writer in her own right, the novel blossoms into delicate life, chronicling the illusions and disillusions of an existence devoted to art. ( Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Grenier, the author of over 30 books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Difficulty of Being a Dog (LJ 12/00), has spun a melancholy tale that captures the pathos of music but not its grandeur. Michel Mailhoc, descendant of the scorned Cagots (once treated as "untouchables") of southwestern France, is a talented pianist who studies as a child with the flamboyant and celebrated Nicolau Arderiu and then imitates his mentor by engaging in a trail of listless affairs and eventually withdrawing from the stage. He ends up teaching his grand-niece Emma, who goes on to become a famed concert pianist, though her success brings some pain for them both she is almost undone by stage fright, and he is saddened whenever she departs on tour. "Has his art of the piano been nothing but an instrument of seduction," muses Michel at one point, and the answer, alas, seems to be yes. Grenier writes in a dry, autumnal style that breathes the hopelessness of aborted love but not the passion that a single fine phrase of Beethoven can inspire. For comprehensive collections of French literature. Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A marvel of brevity, this superb 1991 novel by the French author of Another November (and many others as yet untranslated) encapsulates the fate of a small French village in the conflicted figure of Michel Mailhoc, a failed musician who teaches his young grandniece Emma to become the successful concert pianist he is not meant to be. Grenier subtly connects Michel's various missteps and failings—as artist, lover, and man—with the major events of the half-century stretching from WWI through France's war in Algeria, while also suggestively linking him with the doomed romantic-tragic figure of Robert Schumann. A big little novel, in every way.
Los Angeles Times
"French writers of the last generation seem to have a genius for brevity. Here, Roger Grenier has collapsed three generations, two world wars, the history of an ancient regional ethnic prejudice, a sophisticated love of music and many relationships into . . . a slender volume."—Los Angeles Times
Booklist
"[A] refined, reflective novel . . . by a noted French writer."—Booklist
Washington Post Book World

"Succeeds in capturing a sense of the vast aimlessness yet emotional depth of life. . . . Grenier's characters speak an almost runic language of shared and sacred cultural objects. . . . This novel happens in a world in which Schubert is as much an object, a daily thing to be reckoned with, as war, death and pain. . . . The allusions are essential to his technique . . . [acting] as dense vignettes that aim at a specific and precise emotion, usually melancholy."—Philip Kennicott, Washington Post Book World

— Philip Kennicott

Washington Post Book World - Philip Kennicott
"Succeeds in capturing a sense of the vast aimlessness yet emotional depth of life. . . . Grenier's characters speak an almost runic language of shared and sacred cultural objects. . . . This novel happens in a world in which Schubert is as much an object, a daily thing to be reckoned with, as war, death and pain. . . . The allusions are essential to his technique . . . [acting] as dense vignettes that aim at a specific and precise emotion, usually melancholy."—Philip Kennicott, Washington Post Book World
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803270879
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 153
  • Product dimensions: 4.77 (w) x 8.27 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Grenier is the author of over thirty books of fiction and criticism, including Another November (Nebraska 1998) and The Difficulty of Being a Dog. He is known for his spare language and melancholy wit and for decades has been a key figure in French letters. Alice Kaplan is a professor of Romance studies and literature at Duke University and the author, most recently, of The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach.
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Table of Contents

Translator's Preface
Pt. 1 The Art of the Fugue 3
Pt. 2 The Hygrometer 57
Pt. 3 The Victory of Time and Disillusion 105
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