cover image Homage to Czerny: Studies in Virtuoso Technique

Homage to Czerny: Studies in Virtuoso Technique

Gert Jonke, , trans. from the German by Jean M. Snook. . Dalkey Archive, $12.95 (149pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-501-5

Austrian author and playwright Jonke addresses a host of existential questions through a cast of vaudevillian compatriots in this slim, beautifully written volume. When narrator Fritz, a self-loathing, depressive alcoholic composer, arrives early to help set up the annual garden party thrown by his friends, photographer Anton and his sister, Johanna, everything looks eerily familiar. As Fritz busies himself, Johanna reveals Anton's farcical if slightly malevolent plan to create an exact replica of last year's party. The plan is a success, allowing Jonke to wryly send up Austrian society and muse provocatively on the nature of memory. In the latter section of the book, Fritz and his brother go to the conservatory they attended in their youth to visit their old piano teacher. They end up trapped in an attic with dozens of neglected and decaying pianos. They're rescued, but not before Fritz's sanity is called into question. As intricately structured as a musical composition, with recurring conversational motifs, the narrative—powered by Snook's magnificent translation—moves smoothly and evocatively through fraught emotional terrain. (Oct.)