7 April 2010

Maxence Fermine, The Black Violin, 1999

The second in Fermine’s ‘Colours’ trilogy, each of which stand alone as stories of people whose lives are defined by colour. Unlike the first in this trio, Snow (about a young Japanese poet who writes haikus about snow), The Black Violin is a darker tale set in the 18th century Napoleonic wars: a young soldier who is also a genius with the violin is posted to Venice where he encounters Erasmus, understudy to the Stradivari family and creator of a violin imbued with a dark soul of its own that somehow captures the essence of those whose lives it touches. The book tries to connect both creation and destruction with the unseen world of the spirit and succeeds, though it seems to be a stripped down version of what could have been a far more detailed and nuanced story if Fermine were, politely put, a more detailed and nuanced writer. It's unchallenging for the most part and a hundred pages shorter than it ought to be, nevertheless it does resonate with a hauntingly uncomfortable question or two about fundamental motives when it comes to matters of the heart.  PY


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