A Greater Music

Bae Suah, trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith. Open Letter, $13.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-940953-46-5
After a three-year absence, an unnamed writer returns to Berlin in this dulcet, contemplative novel from the author of Nowhere to Be Found. The visit becomes a “continuation of a dream” for the narrator, one that began when she was first being tutored in German by M, a sickly woman with “eyes like a winter lake with an iceberg at its heart” whose twin loves of literature and classical music matched the narrator’s own. Their relationship swiftly turned to romance, and instilled in the narrator “the desire to write, the blazing desire to set down sentences that were true, sincere, and not the stuff of children.” After a fit of jealousy sent the narrator spiraling into a “swamp of shame,” she abandoned M for Seoul. At home, the screening of a banal film makes her realize she’s made a terrible mistake. A far cry from that “unbearable celebration of the conventional,” this novel stutters through its recollection of events, digressing regularly to ruminate on figures like the composer Bernd Alois Zimmerman or the German writer Jacob Hein. The structure bedevils as much as it illuminates, but ultimately, this book serves as an articulate and moving reflection of how life can stop “for a time in a certain fluid place between past and future.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/22/2016
Release date: 10/01/2016
Ebook - 132 pages - 978-1-940953-47-2
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