cover image Hammerklavier


Yasmina Reza. George Braziller, $20 (126pp) ISBN 978-0-8076-1451-8

Originally published in France in 1997, this slim collection of delicately etched memories portrays scenes from the author's and her loved ones' lives. Reza, whose celebrated play Art was presented on Broadway in 1998, affectingly remembers her father, whose reverence for Beethoven's ""Hammerklavier"" informs her memories of their shared love of music and continues to haunt her dreams. Loss and death are recurrent themes in these melancholy reflections, which often deal with the illness and death of close friends and family members. Leafing through the photographs in a biography of the writer Stefan Zweig, she stares at his old armchair and lamp, wondering, ""Have they joined the shadow they met on earth, the presence as infinitesimal as theirs in the light of ages, their ephemeral friend Stefan, in the common human grave ?"" Some of Reza's memories are tinged with humor. At age five, her daughter, Alta, would put on rather enigmatic performances involving ""a plushy heap of soft toys,"" lots of silence and, occasionally, ""barely audible words, addressed to the blank walls."" Obliged to attend these shows, Reza's husband once whispered that they reminded him of the performances Nero gave and forced people to watch, and, he added, ""People threw themselves out of windows."" Poetically written, wry and subtle, these anecdotes may seem slight to some; others will respond more sympathetically to the author's perceptive reflections on life and the passage of time. (May)