May 24, 1941: Alexeï Berg, a classical pianist, is set to perform his first solo concert in Moscow. But just before his début, his parents - his father a renowned playwright, and his mother a famed opera singer - are exposed for their political indiscretions and held under arrest. With World War II on the brink, and fearing that his own entrapment is not far behind, Alexeï flees to the countryside, assumes the identity of a Soviet soldier, and falls dangerously in love with a general officer's daughter. What follows is a two-decades-long journey through war and peace, love and betrayal, art and artifice - a rare ensemble in the making of the music of a life.
As the narrator of this brief, dreamlike, and pointedly philosophical novel waits for a delayed train at a snowy station in the Russian countryside in 1941, he contemplates history, fatality, and the absurd. Andrei Makine, a Russian émigré to France in the 1980s and author of the much heralded Dreams of My Russian Summers, weaves sensory details and philosophical inquiry into one tight, elegiac whole. Performed in a pleasing and energetic American dialect by Gregory St. John, Music of a Life introduces the listener to a young pianist searching for a "tragic harmony" as his country descends into Soviet madness and dispiriting war. Like Voltaire’s Candide, Camus’s The Stranger, and other brief novels of philosophical weight, Music of a Life consoles even as it confounds.
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