From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR THE CELLO PLAYER
"Packed into this small, powerful novel is a dazzling array of well-chiseled, colorful characters, extracted from the grand tableau of history and the author’s imagination . . . The Cello Player [suggests] the writing of Milan Kundera or Vladimir Nabokov, both of whose romantic exposition and fine ironic touches resonate here." --The New York Times Book Review
"Kruger’s wryly delivered tale will tantalize your inner academic . . . and then win you over with its elegant storytelling." --Entertainment Weekly
A meditation on literary friendship, the latest from Krüger (The Cello Player) opens out onto the mysteries and obfuscations endemic to art making. With the suicide of well-known novelist Rudolf, the nameless male narrator, a close friend of Rudolf's since college, arrives at Rudolf's university-owned palazzo in Turin, Italy, to sort out Rudolf's literary legacy. Ensconced in Rudolf's dusty, disorganized office; bullied by Rudolf's former assistant and probable lover, Marta; concerned for Rudolf's hospitalized widow; and worried by a menagerie of exotic animals Rudolf kept on the palazzo's terrace, the grieving, beleaguered narrator sifts through Rudolf's voluminous papers and correspondence, all the while wryly reflecting on how Rudolf and the narrator together formed their tastes, had their loves and did their work. Yet like all great friendships, this one turns out to have its secrets, and as the narrator attempts to piece together Rudolf's unfinished last work, the novel becomes a beguiling meditation on the nature of authorship and the limits of how much one artist can know another. Krüger, head of the German publishing house Hanser Verlag and editor of the journal Akzente, marshals a tone at once playful and elegiac, perfectly capturing the narrator's loss and his remaining love for life and for work. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
This novel is comparable to Imre Kertész's Liquidationas well as several of Krüger's earlier novels (The Man in the Tower, Himmelfarb)-it's short, it's a mystery, and it's essentially about the creative process. As in the earlier works, Krüger links art to violence or death and has conceived a narrator who aspires to be, but realizes that he is not, part of the intellectual elite. Although he treats literary theory, a topic unlikely to inspire most American readers, like any good mystery writer Krüger is skilled at revealing the right information at the right time. In addition, the cast of interesting characters-including a menagerie of unusual domesticated animals; the extremely average narrator, M; three Furies, his late friend's widow, lover, and secretary, who guide the narrator's actions; and the friend himself, a novelist who, despite being dead by suicide before the novel begins is in many ways the protagonist-keep the reader interested until the conclusion. Ultimately, the novel feels like a long joke. Recommended for academic and public libraries that collect contemporary German fiction.
Well, a comedy of sorts-but more a tragicomedy of distrust and good intentions gone woefully wrong. Rudolf, the main character, does not even appear in the novel, for he has recently committed suicide in Turin, where he had been a prominent professor at the university. His best friend, the narrator, is appointed literary executor. Rudolf had been an intellectual and a writer, and his truculent and unmannerly personality emerges as the narrator comes into contact with three women in Rudolf's life. His wife Elsa, now lying in a coma as she dies of cancer, was a formidable intellectual in her own right (though Rudolf confessed that he found her stuff "unreadable"). We also meet Eva, something of a mystery woman, whose large cache of letters the narrator discovers among the 64 cartons of voluminous papers Rudolf left behind. Finally, there's the cold and intimidating Marta, Rudolf's colleague at the University of Turin and (perhaps) his lover. The narrator is charged with sorting through and making sense of Rudolf's personal and literary legacy. What is particularly urgent is the need to discover whether Rudolf's reputed last work, The Testament, a book that was supposed to revolutionize the novel as a mode of writing, was merely a figment of his febrile imagination. Amidst the sorting process the narrator uncovers sordid information he feels might besmirch the reputation of the redoubtable Rudolf, papers he wants either to suppress or destroy. Along the way he encounters contradictions-Rudolf's hidden rooftop menagerie, for example, where Rudolf was able to indulge his lavish love of animals, stands in contradiction to his prickly relationships with human beings. By the time the narratorgets to the 64th carton, he discovers that he has unwittingly destroyed papers that would have upheld Rudolf's formidable artistic reputation. A bit intellectual and rarefied, much like Rudolf's work is reputed to be.