Goldberg: \t\t Variations

Gabriel Josipovici, Author . Harper Perennial $13.95 (189p) ISBN 978-0-06-089723-9
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The U.K.–based Josipovici (Only Joking) offers an intriguing textual fugue on J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. That great work was published in 1741 and was possibly written for one Count Keyserlingk, whose personal musician may have been a man named Goldberg. In Josipovici's version, set in 1800, a German-Jewish writer named Samuel Goldberg is hired to read to the rich insomniac Tobias Westfield. Westfield claims to have read everything that has been written, so Goldberg is compelled to invent a story nightly: this book. In one piece, Goldberg recounts his experiences speculating on philosophy in the court of the local German king. In another, Goldberg's wife writes a first-person account of what it is like to be Mrs. Goldberg—or is Goldberg telling Westfield what his wife's innermost thoughts might be? Another piece recounts the breakup of a middle-aged British writer and his wife while on holiday in Switzerland—in the late 20th or early 21st century. Round and round goes the fugue (there are 30 "variations," as in the Bach) riffing backward and forward. It's a winning puzzle book à la Michael Frayn, best read as an homage to Bach's masterpiece's thick history. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 12/11/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
Paperback - 189 pages - 978-1-85754-597-5
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