Thursday, 27 October 2016

'The Music'

The third story in The Girl with the Peacock Harp follows 'The Beginning' and takes up that story with Maximilian, the brilliant violinist, performing for loose change as a busker. Many years have passed since he fled his home, and he lives a miserable hand-to-mouth existence.

A leading composer hears Maximilian's brilliant improvisations and seeks to exploit them. It is the fashion to incorporate folk music in 'serious' music. However, what amounts to a kidnapping of the old man merely reinforces how alien the world of formal composition is Maxilimian. The old man escapes and returns to his own people.

As in the previous tales, Michael Eisele conjures up a lost Europe of gaudy aristocracy rubbing shoulders with grinding poverty in the cities, while the Romany/gypsy folk do their best to survive in the margins of 'respectable' society. It's clear where the author's sympathies lie. The nomads, with their living culture of music and song, are warm and humane, according to their own lights. The 'civilised' people can be well-meaning but are seldom likeable.

While reading these first stories in TGwtPH I wondered why so many good writers - other good examples are John Howard and Mark Valentine - are writing about central and eastern Europe before or between the world wars? Nostalgia might have something to do with it. A desire to escape from modern, post-literate culture might also be involved. The influence of Decadent literature is also apparent sometimes. But this is the stuff of which other people's Ph.Ds are made...

Another story reviewed tomorrow!

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