Transcript: Robert Adams on "An Equal Music" by Vikram Seth | Jan 10, 2004

Robert Adams stands behind a wooden lectern on a stage, and addresses an audience mainly made of women in their fifties and sixties.
Robert is in his late sixties, balding, with a full white beard. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit, white shirt, and a red tie

Robert says TONIGHT'S NOVEL
IS
AN EQUAL MUSIC
BY
VIKRAM SETH.
THE NAME IS WRITTEN "SETH," BUT
IT IS PRONOUNCED "SET," THERE IS
NO "TH" IN HINDI.
SO I AM TOLD.
VIKRAM SETH IS NOW 51 YEARS OLD.
HE WAS BORN IN 1952 IN INDIA IN
CALCUTTA, FIVE YEARS AFTER
INDIAN GAINED ITS INDEPENDENCE
FROM ENGLAND.
HE WAS BORN TO A FAIRLY WEALTHY
FAMILY AND SO HE WENT TO ENGLAND
TO BEGIN HIS UNIVERSITY
EDUCATION.
HE STUDIED FIRST AT OXFORD,
WHERE, IN 1973, HE TOOK HIS
FIRST DEGREE IN POLITICS,
PHILOSOPHY AND ECONOMICS.
THEN HE WENT TO DO HIS MASTERS
IN CALIFORNIA AT STANFORD
UNIVERSITY.
HE GRADUATED IN 1975 AND THEN HE
WENT TO CHINA TO DO HIS DOCTORAL
STUDIES IN ECONOMICS, IN CHINESE
VILLAGE ECONOMIES.
HE WENT TO THE UNIVERSITY OF
NANJING AND I AM ALL THE MORE
IMPRESSED, BECAUSE I KNOW THAT
HE DID HIS DOCTORAL STUDIES IN
MANDARIN CHINESE.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Robert Adams. Vikram Seth. 'An equal music.'"

Robert continues IN 1980, HE LEFT THE UNIVERSITY
OF NANJING IN CHINA AND HE
WALKED HOME.
HE WALKED THE 4,000 MILES BACK
TO CALCUTTA.
IT TOOK HIM TWO YEARS TO WALK
AND WHEN HE HAD FINISHED, HE
WROTE AN ACCOUNT, HIS FIRST
MAJOR WORK, HE WROTE A WONDERFUL
TRAVELOGUE CALLED
FROM
HEAVEN LAKE,
ABOUT HIS
TRAVELS ACROSS CHINA AND ACROSS
TIBET.
AND AFTER THE SUCCESS OF HIS
FIRST BOOK,
FROM HEAVEN
LAKE,
HE WROTE ANOTHER
BOOK, THIS TIME A NOVEL, BUT IT
WAS A VERY PECULIAR NOVEL.
IT WAS A NOVEL ABOUT THE
INTERTWINED LOVE AFFAIRS OF FIVE
YOUNG CALIFORNIANS, AND FOR THAT
HE DROW... DREW VERY HEAVILY ON
HIS YEARS AT STANFORD
UNIVERSITY.
IN THAT SECOND NOVEL, HE SET
HIMSELF THE MOST STRINGENT OF
TECHNICAL FRAMEWORKS.
HE WROTE HIS NOVEL, THE GOLDEN
GATE, IN 600 LINKED SONNETS,
8,400 LINES OF POETRY, IT IS A
NOVEL, BUT IT IS WRITTEN IN 600
SONNETS, ALL IN TETRAMETER.
GORE VIDAL, THE AMERICAN WRITER,
THE FRIEND OF THE KENNEDY
FAMILY, WHO IS NOT MUCH GIVEN TO
PRAISE OTHER THAN FOR HIMSELF...

[Laughter]

Robert continues SAID OF VIKRAM
SETH'S SECOND BOOK,
THE
GOLDEN GATE,
THAT IT WAS
THE GREATEST TECHNICAL
ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING OF THE
20th CENTURY.
AND AFTER WRITING HIS
TRAVELOGUE,
FROM HEAVEN
LAKE
AND AFTER HIS
INCREDIBLE NOVEL IN POETRY,
THE GOLDEN GATE,
VIKRAM
SETH DECIDED TO MOVE IN A
DIFFERENT DIRECTION.
AS HE SAID, "I TRY TO DO
SOMETHING DIFFERENT EACH TIME,
THAT WAY, YOU DON'T GET BORED."
HE DECIDED TO STAY HOME, IN THE
FAMILY HOME, THE FAMILY HAD
MOVED FROM CALCUTTA TO NEW
DELHI.
HE DECIDED TO STAY HOME AND HE
STAYED HOME FOR SEVEN YEARS,
RARELY GOING OUT.
AND THE RESULT WAS, IN 1993, HIS
THIRD MAJOR WORK, A PURE NOVEL
CALLED
A SUITABLE BOY.
IT IS THE LONGEST NOVEL, ONE-
VOLUME NOVEL, EVER WRITTEN IN
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
I REVIEWED IT IN 1996 AND THE
MAIN COMPLAINT OF MY AUDIENCE IN
1996 WAS ABOUT THE SHEER
PHYSICAL HARDSHIP OF HOLDING THE
BOOK, THIS, THIS IS THE BOOK IN
PAPERBACK.
IT'S 1400 PAGES.
BUT NOBODY COMPLAINED ABOUT
A SUITABLE BOY
AFTER THEY
HAD READ IT.
IT SOLD MORE THAN A MILLION
COPIES WORLD-WIDE, IT IS SET IN
INDIA IN 1952, THE YEAR OF
VIKRAM SETH'S BIRTH.
AND IT IS NO LESS THAN A
PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN, A FAMILY
AND THE WHOLE OF INDIA.

[Laughter]

Robert continues HINDU-MUSLIM
TENSION, THE CASTE SYSTEM AND
THE INCREDIBLE DEGREE OF
POLITICAL CORRUPTION.
NOW VIKRAM SETH IS VERY MUCH A
TRADITIONALIST, HE IS A
CLASSICIST, A FORMALIST IN
LITERATURE.
HE IS AN ADMIRER, AN ENORMOUS
ADMIRER, OF JANE AUSTEN.
SHE IS HIS LITERARY HERO.
SHE IS, IN FACT, JANE AUSTEN,
THE FAVOURITE WRITER OF MOST
COMPETENT WRITER.
SHE WAS THE FAVOURITE WRITER, I
KNOW BECAUSE HE TOLD ME, OF
MORDECAI RICHLER.
A SUITABLE BOY,
HIS THIRD
GREAT WORK, WAS REALLY BASED
VERY MUCH ON JANE AUSTEN'S
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.
THE MAIN CHARACTER, Mrs. MEHRA,
BEGINS THE NOVEL BY MARRYING OFF
HER OLDEST DAUGHTER AND SHE ENDS
THE NOVEL BY MARRYING OFF HER
YOUNGEST DAUGHTER.
SHE IS, IN FACT, VERY MUCH A
VERSION OF Mrs. BENNETT IS JANE
AUSTEN'S GREAT NOVEL.
I WOULD GO SO FAR AS TO SAY THAT
A SUITABLE BOY
IS EXACTLY
THE NOVEL THAT JANE AUSTEN WOULD
HAVE WRITTEN IF SHE HAD BEEN
BORN IN THE 20th CENTURY.
IF SHE HAD BEEN BORN IN INDIA,
IF SHE HAD BEEN BORN MALE AND IF
SHE HAD BEEN BORN GAY.

[Laughter]

Robert continues I SHOULDN'T
REALLY MAKE TOO MUCH OF THE FACT
THAT VIKRAM SETH IS GAY,
BECAUSE... HE HAS PUBLISHED A
NUMBER OF VOLUMES OF, OF POETRY
AND OF CHILDREN'S STORIES AND IN
ONE OF HIS SHORT POEMS CALLED
"DUBIOUS," HE SAYS, I QUOTE,
"SOME MEN LIKE JACK AND SOME
LIKE JILL I'M GLAD I LIKE THEM
BOTH.
"IN THE STRICT RANKS OF GAY AND
STRAIGHT WHAT IS MY STATUS?
"STRAY OR GREAT?"

[Laughter]

Robert continues AND I TAKE THE
VERSE TO MEAN NOT THAT HE IS
BISEXUAL, BECAUSE HE HAS ALWAYS
BEEN VERY OPENLY AND PROUDLY
HOMOSEXUAL, BUT THAT HE DOESN'T
WISH TO BE LABELLED.
HE DOESN'T WISH TO BE DEFINED AS
PART OF ONE GROUP, TO THE
EXCLUSION OF ANY OTHER GROUP.
AFTER THREE TREMENDOUSLY
DIFFERENT WORKS, THE CHINESE
TRAVELOGUE, THE AMERICAN NOVEL
IN VERSE SET IN CALIFORNIA AND
THEN THE JANE AUSTEN-INSPIRED
NOVEL,
A SUITABLE BOY,
SET
IN INDIA, WE NOW HAVE
AN
EQUAL MUSIC,
PUBLISHED IN
1999 AND THE ODD THING IS THAT
VIKRAM SETH RESISTED WRITING
THIS, HIS FOURTH WORK, FOR A
LONG TIME.
"FIRST OF ALL," HE SAID, "I
SPENT SEVEN YEARS WRITING
A SUITABLE BOY
AND THREE
YEARS RECOVERING FROM IT."
BUT THERE WAS MORE THAN THAT IN
AN EQUAL MUSIC.
AS HE HAS SAID, QUOTE, "I'VE
ALWAYS LOVED MUSIC, BUT I'VE
TRIED NOT TO WRITE ABOUT IT
BECAUSE I LOVED IT SO MUCH.
"I'VE ALWAYS KEPT MUSIC AS A
KIND OF PRIVATE PRESERVE.
"I AM COMPLETELY PASSIONATE
ABOUT MUSIC, IF I AM FORCED TO
MAKE A CHOICE, I PREFER MUSIC TO
THE WRITTEN WORD."
NOW VIKRAM SETH WAS TRAINED IN
INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC, VOICE,
FLUTE AND TABLA.
HE CAME TO WESTERN MUSIC IN HIS
30s, FAIRLY LATE IN LIFE.
HE PLAYS THE PIANO AND THE
CELLO, ALTHOUGH NOT PERHAPS UP
TO CONCERT STANDARDS.
HE ADORES SCHUBERT AND HE
LEARNED GERMAN, BECAME FLUENT IN
GERMAN, SO THAT HE COULD GET THE
FULL FLAVOUR OF THE SCHUBERT
LIEDER.
GERMAN BECAME HIS SIXTH
LANGUAGE.
AFTER HINDU, THE LANGUAGE OF
INDIA, URDU, THE LANGUAGE OF
PAKISTAN, BENGALI, THE LANGUAGE
OF HIS NATIVE PROVINCE, ENGLISH,
OF COURSE AND, UH, MANDARIN
CHINESE.
HE ADDED GERMAN, NOT ONLY THAT,
BUT HE LEARNED TO LIP-READ
PERFECTLY.
WHEN I READ THAT SOME TIME AGO,
I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING DEAF.
BUT THE FACT IS, THAT HIS
HEARING IS AS ACUTE OF... IS AS
ACUTE AS EVER AND LEARNING TO
LIP-READ WAS JUST PART OF HIS
PREPARATION FOR THIS NOVEL.
BECAUSE ONE PART OF THE NOVEL IS
ABOUT THE DEAF MUSICIAN.
AND FOR THE SAME REASON, FOR THE
SAME PREPARATION OF THE NOVEL,
HE SAT IN ON HUNDREDS OF STRING
QUARTET REHEARSALS AND SAT IN ON
HUNDREDS OF STRING QUARTET
CONCERTS.
BEFORE I CAN BEGIN TO DISSECT
AN EQUAL MUSIC,
I HAVE TO
CONSIDER THREE THINGS, THE
TITLE, "AN EQUAL MUSIC," THE
SECOND, A QUOTATION FROM JOHN
DONNE THAT PRECEDES THE FIRST
CHAPTER OF THE BOOK AND THIRD,
THE NATURE OF A STRING QUARTET,
BECAUSE A STRING QUARTET, THE
MAGGIORE QUARTET, PLAYS SUCH AN
IMPORTANT PART IN THE NOVEL.
LET ME BEGIN WITH THE TITLE, "AN
EQUAL MUSIC" AND THE JOHN DONNE
QUOTATION THAT PRECEDES THE
FIRST CHAPTER.
JOHN DONNE, YOU WILL REMEMBER,
WAS THE 17th CENTURY ENGLISH
METAPHYSICAL POET WHO WAS AN
ANGLICAN PRIEST WHO LOVED HIS
GOD AND WHO LOVED HIS WIFE.
AND JOHN DONNE IN THE POEM HE
QUOTES FROM IS SPEAKING ABOUT
HEAVEN, ABOUT THE HEAVENLY GATE,
THE GATES TO HEAVEN AND ABOUT
THE HEAVEN THAT IS ENTERED
AFTERWARDS.
AND HE SAYS, "AND INTO THAT GATE
THEY SHALL ENTER, AND IN THAT
HOUSE, THE HEAVENLY HOUSE, THEY
SHALL DWELL, WHERE THERE SHALL
BE NO CLOUD NOR SUN, NO
DARKNESSE NOR DAZLING, BUT ONE
EQUALL LIGHT, NO NOYSE NOR
SILENCE, BUT ONE EQUALL MUSICK."
I THINK I JUST HEARD THE CHORD
OF ONE...

[Laughter]

Robert continues... EQUAL MUSIC.
I WILL BE REFERRING TO MOBILE
PHONES LATER IN MY TALK.

[Laughter]

Robert continues LET ME TALK
ABOUT WHAT JOHN DONNE WROTE IN
THE 17th CENTURY, LET ME REMIND
YOU THAT UNTIL THE YEAR 1543 IN
THE 16th CENTURY, WHEN
COPERNICUS PROVED THAT THE EARTH
MOVES AROUND THE SUN, THE
COMMONLY HELD VIEW WAS THE
PTOLEMAIC VIEW, THAT THE EARTH
IS THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE.
ALL THE HEAVENLY BODIES, THE
PLANETS AND THE STARS, MOVE
AROUND THE EARTH.
WE ARE THE CENTRE OF CREATION.
AND BECAUSE OF THAT, MEDIEVAL
CHRISTIAN THEOLOGIANS WORKED OUT
THAT WHEN THE HEAVENLY BODIES
MOVE, THEY MAKE A MUSIC, GOD'S
MUSIC, THE HEAVENLY MUSIC, THE
MUSIC OF THE SPHERES.
THAT MUSIC, THEY THOUGHT, THE
MEDIEVAL CHRISTIAN THEOLOGIANS,
MUST BE PERFECT BECAUSE IT IS
GOD'S MUSIC, IT IS AN EQUAL
MUSIC, EACH PART CONTRIBUTING
EQUALLY TO THE PERFECTION OF THE
WHOLE.
WHEN ADAM AND EVE LIVED IN
PARADISE, THEY HEARD THE MUSIC
OF THE HEAVENS, BECAUSE THEY
WERE IN COMMUNION WITH GOD, BUT
WHEN ADAM AND EVE WERE CAST OUT
OF EDEN AND THEY ENTERED THE
FALLEN STATE IN WHICH WE NOW ALL
LIVE, THEY COULD NO LONGER HEAR
THE MUSIC OF THE HEAVENS, THAT
PERFECT, EQUAL MUSIC.
THEY BELIEVED THAT WHEN WE DIE,
WE HEAR THE MUSIC, WHEN WE ENTER
HEAVEN, WHEN WE REJOIN OUR
MAKER.
NOW BY THE TIME OF JOHN DONNE IN
THE 17th CENTURY, THE THEORY OF
THE EARTH AS CENTRE OF THE
UNIVERSE HAD BEEN DISCREDITED,
BUT JOHN DONNE USED THE IDEA OF
THAT HEAVENLY MUSIC AS A POETIC
CONCEIT, AS A METAPHOR THAT
INFORMED ALL HIS POETRY, JOHN
DONNE, THE ANGLICAN PRIEST WHO
ADORED HIS WIFE AND ADORED HIS
GOD, WORKED INTO HIS... ALL HIS
POETRY THE IDEA THAT NOT ONLY
WILL WE HEAR THE HEAVENLY MUSIC,
THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES, THE
EQUAL MUSIC, THE PERFECT MUSIC,
WHEN WE DIE, BUT WE WILL ALSO
HEAR IT WHEN WE COME INTO
PERFECT PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL
UNION WITH THE PERSON WE LOVE.
WHEN TWO LOVERS, EACH A HALF OF
PERFECTION MAKE A WHOLE, A
PERFECT LITTLE WORLD, A PERFECT
LITTLE MICROCOSM, THEY WILL NOT
ONLY EXPERIENCE GOD AND TOUCH
THE FACE OF GOD, THEY WILL HEAR
THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES.
AND THAT, THEREFORE, IS ONE PART
OF THE TITLE, "AN EQUAL MUSIC."
IT IS A HEAVENLY MUSIC, IT IS
THE MUSIC OF LOVERS WHEN THEY
ENTER PERFECTION.
ANOTHER REFERENCE OF THE TITLE
IS WITH... RELATION TO THE
NATURE OF CHAMBER MUSIC.
IN PARTICULAR, THE MUSIC OF THE
STRING QUARTET.
AND IT IS A STRING QUARTET, THE
MAGGIORE QUARTET, THAT PLAYS
SUCH AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE
NOVEL.
AS YOU KNOW, CHAMBER MUSIC IS
THE 16th CENTURY TERM FOR MUSIC
PLAYED IN A CHAMBRE, A ROOM.
AS OPPOSED TO MUSIC COMPOSED FOR
THE STAGE, THE THEATRE OR THE
CHURCH.
MUSIC PERFORMED BY A SMALL
GROUP.
LIKE A TRIO.
LIKE A TRIO.
A VIOLIN, A VIOLA AND A CELLO.
A VIOLIN, A PIANO AND A CELLO.
OR A QUARTET, TWO VIOLINS, A
VIOLA AND A CELLO.
OR A QUINTET, A PIANO, A VIOLA,
A CELLO AND A BASS.
AND SO ON AND SO FORTH.
THE GREAT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN
ORCHESTRA AND A CHAMBER MUSIC
GROUP, APART FROM SIZE, IS THAT
AN ORCHESTRA IS A DICTATORSHIP,
WHILE A CHAMBER MUSIC ENSEMBLE,
LIKE THE MAGGIORE QUARTET IN OUR
NOVEL IS A DEMOCRACY.
IN AN ORCHESTRA, THE CONDUCTOR
MAKES EVERY MUSICAL DECISION.
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A VERY BRAVE
SECOND VIOLINIST WHO WOULD HAVE
OFFERED A SUGGESTION OR A
CRITICISM, LET US SAY TO, UH, TO
TOSCANINI.
HIS MUSICAL CAREER WOULD HAVE
BEEN VERY SHORT.
IN A CHAMBER MUSIC ENSEMBLE,
LIKE THE MAGGIORE STRING QUARTET
IN OUR NOVEL, EACH MEMBER HAS AN
EQUAL VOICE, EACH CONTRIBUTES
EQUALLY IN PREPARATION AND
PERFORMANCE, NO ONE HAS
PRECEDENCE.
THE FIRST OF THE TWO VIOLINISTS
GIVES THE UPBEAT TO BEGIN, BUT
THAT IS THE ONLY AUTHORITY.
REHEARSAL BECOMES ABSOLUTELY
VITAL, BECAUSE THE FINAL PRODUCT
TO BE OFFERED MUST BE A
CONSENSUS BETWEEN FOUR EQUALLY
IMPORTANT COMPONENTS OF THE
ENSEMBLE.
AND THE WORKING-OUT OF THAT
CONSENSUS IS VERY PAINFUL AND
ONE OF THE DELIGHTS OF THIS
NOVEL,
AN EQUAL MUSIC,
IS
HOW IT MAKES VIVID THE DYNAMICS
OF FOUR INDIVIDUALS WORKING TO
PRODUCE A POLISHED WHOLE.
AND NOW PERHAPS IT IS TIME FOR
US TO MEET THE FOUR MEMBERS OF
THE MAGGIORE STRING QUARTET.
IT WAS FOUNDED BY ITS TWO
VIOLINISTS, THE FIRST AND SECOND
VIOLINISTS, ONE IS NOT MORE
IMPORTANT THAN THE OTHER, WE
COULD CALL THEM VIOLINISTS "A."
AND "B" OR VIOLINISTS "X" AND
"Y."
PIERS, SECOND NAMES ARE NOT
IMPORTANT, PIERS AND HIS LOVER,
ALEX, TWO VIOLINISTS DECIDE TO
FORM THE GROUP WHEN THEY ARE ON
HOLIDAY IN VENICE, VENICE,
ALWAYS A MAGIC PLACE FOR LOVERS
IN THE NOVEL.
THEY BOTH FALL IN LOVE WITH THE
LIGHT OF VENICE AND WITH THE
GREAT BELL TOWER OF THE CHURCH
OF SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE FROM
WHICH THEY TAKE THE NAME.
THEY INVITE TO JOIN THEM PIERS'
SISTER, HELEN, ON THE VIOLA AND
A FRIEND, BILLY, ON THE CELLO
AND THUS YOU HAVE THE QUARTET.
PIERS AND ALEX ALTERNATE FIRST
AND SECOND VIOLIN, BUT IT IS A
STRAIN ON THEIR RELATIONSHIP AND
THERE ARE STRAINS WITH-WITHIN
THEIR RELATIONSHIP AND SO THEY
BREAK UP AND OUR PROTAGONIST,
MICHAEL HOLME, REPLACES ALEX AS
THE SECOND VIOLINIST SOME TIME
BEFORE THE NOVEL BEGINS.
FOUR INDIVIDUALS WORKING
TOGETHER.
THAT MEANS THAT THERE ARE SIX
DIFFERENT ONE-ON-ONE
RELATIONSHIPS.
AND VIKRAM SETH EXAMINES THEM
ALL, IT'S AN INCREDIBLE
RELATIONSHIP IN A QUARTET.
IN MICHAEL'S WORDS AND THE WHOLE
NOVEL IS SPOKEN IN MICHAEL'S
WORDS, "THE QUARTET IS LIKE AN
ODD, QUADRIPARTITE MARRIAGE,
WITH SIX RELATIONSHIPS, ANY ONE
OF WHICH AT ANY GIVEN TIME COULD
BE CORDIAL OR NEUTRAL OR
STRAINED."
NOW TWO OF THE QUARTET ARE
BROTHER AND SISTER.
PIERS, THE FIRST VIOLINIST AND
HIS SISTER, HELEN, THE VIOLA
PLAYER.
HELEN, THE VIOLA PLAYER, IS
WILDLY ENTHUSIASTIC WHEN A
RECORDING COMPANY ASKS THEM TO
RECORD THE INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT
BACH'S
ART OF FUGUE.
IT IS SO DIFFICULT THAT, WHEN
BACH WROTE IT, MANY PEOPLE
BELIEVED IT WAS THEORETICAL
MUSIC, WHAT THEY CALLED "EYE
MUSIC."
IT WAS TOO DIFFICULT TO BE
PLAYED.
AND PIERS, THE FIRST VIOLINIST,
IS RELUCTANT AND WHEN HE IS
ARGUING WITH HIS SISTER, HE
REACHES BACK INTO THEIR SHARED
CHILDHOOD FOR AMMUNITION.
FROM PAGE 143, PIERS SPEAKING,
"YOU KNOW, HELEN, YOU'RE A GREAT
ENTHUSIAST ABOUT EVERYTHING AT
THE BEGINNING.
"DO YOU REMEMBER THE POTTER'S
WHEEL?
"YOU MADE EVERYONE'S LIFE HELL
UNTIL FATHER BOUGHT YOU ONE.
"AND THEN YOU THREW ONE POT ON
IT, NOT A PARTICULARLY
ATTRACTIVE POT, IT'S STILL IN
THE GARAGE."
AND HE CONTINUES TO NEEDLE HIS
SISTER.
SPEAKING TO THE OTHER TWO
MEMBERS OF THE QUARTET, PIERS
SAYS, "YOU KNOW THAT HELEN'S IN
LOVE WITH A HORRIBLE FELLOW
CALLED HUGO?
"HE'S PART OF AN OUTFIT CALLED
SOMETHING ANTIQUA.
"HE PLAYS A BAROQUE FIDDLE, HE
WEARS SANDALS, HE HAS A BEARD.
"YOU GET THE IDEA.
"I'M NOT IN LOVE, SAYS HELEN,
AND HE IS NOT HORRIBLE!
"OF COURSE HE IS, SAID PIERS,
YOU MUST BE BLIND.
"OH, HE'S NOT IN THE LEAST
HORRIBLE, PIERS!
"OH, HE LOOKS LIKE A HAIRY
SLUG," SAYS HER BROTHER.
AND SOMETIMES THE THREE OF THEM
GANG UP ON ONE.
IN ONE REHEARSAL OF HAYDN'S
OPUS 64,
BILLY, THE
CELLIST, INDULGES MORE THAN
USUAL IN ONE OF HIS MANNERISMS,
WHEN HE IS PLAYING OPEN BOW, HE
TAKES HIS LEFT HAND OFF THE
INSTRUMENT.

[Laughter]

Robert continues I QUOTE FROM
THE NOVEL, "LOOK, MUM, NO
HANDS."

[Laughter]

Robert continues AND THE OTHERS
BEGIN TO MIMIC HIS MANNERISM.
HELEN, THE KINDEST OF THEM ALL
PERHAPS, DOES IT UNCONSCIOUSLY,
BUT THE OTHER TWO DO IT VERY
DELIBERATELY AND POOR BILLY IS
REDUCED ALMOST TO TEARS AND IT
IS BOTH TOUCHING AND COMICAL, AS
VIKRAM SETH HAS SAID ABOUT THE
NOVEL, "THERE IS QUITE A LOT OF
HUMOUR IN
AN EQUAL MUSIC,
IF YOU KNOW WHERE TO LOOK FOR
IT."
POOR BILLY, BILLY, HA-HA!
SHORT, FAT, THE ONLY MARRIED
MEMBER OF THE QUARTET, ALWAYS
LATE FOR REHEARSAL.
SO LATE THAT THE OTHERS URGE HIM
TO BUY A MOBILE PHONE, A CELL
PHONE.

[Laughter]

Robert continues AND BILLY'S
ANSWER TO THEM IS CLASSIC AND I
WISH I HAD THOUGHT OF IT, PAGE
12, "WHY SHOULD I GET A MOBILE
PHONE?
"I'M NOT A PIMP."

[Laughter]

Robert continues WHEN PIERS
CRITICISES BILLY'S PLAYING OF
BRAHMS AS, QUOTE, "GRAVELLY,"
BILLY SAYS, "OH, SHALL I GET A
NEW CELLO AFTER I GET MY MOBILE
PHONE?"
AND BILLY IS THE ONLY, AS I
SAID, MARRIED MEMBER OF THE
QUARTET AND THE STRAIN OF A
MUSICIAN'S LIFE IS EVIDENT,
HELEN COMMENTS AT ONE POINT,
PAGE 162, "I WAS TALKING TO
BILLY'S WIFE THE OTHER DAY AFTER
THE CONCERT, SHE SAYS THAT
SOMETIMES BILLY'S BAG STANDS IN
THE HALL, NOT EVEN UNPACKED
UNTIL IT'S TIME TO PACK AGAIN, I
DON'T THINK IT'S EASY ON
SPOUSES."
THERE IS AGREEMENT AND
DISAGREEMENT IN THE QUARTET.
SOME OF IT DERIVES FROM
PERSONALITY, SIBLING RIVALRY AND
SOME OF IT FROM THE MUSIC THAT
THEY ARE ASKED TO PLAY FOR
PARTICULAR CONCERTS.
FROM PAGE 13, MICHAEL SPEAKING,
"WE LOVE HAYDN AND HE MAKES US
LOVE EACH OTHER.
"NOT SO BRAHMS, HE HAS ALWAYS
BEEN A CROSS FOR OUR QUARTET.
"I FEEL NO AFFINITY FOR BRAHMS,
PIERS CAN'T STAND HIM, HELEN
ADORES HIM AND BILLY FINDS HIM
DEEPLY INTERESTING, WHATEVER
THAT MEANS."
THESE ARE FOUR PEOPLE FOR WHOM
MUSIC IS LIFE ITSELF.
AND I NEVER FELT THAT MORE
STRONGLY THAN WHEN THEY ATTEND A
PARTY.
THEY HAVE JUST ANNOUNCED THEIR
PROGRAM FOR A FORTHCOMING
IMPORTANT CONCERT IN VIENNA AND
AT THE PARTY THEY ATTEND, THERE
IS A PROMINENT MUSIC CRITIC
PRESENT.
HIS NAME IS NICHOLAS SPARE.
HA-HA.
NICHOLAS SPARE.
AND HE ATTACKS THEM, HE
ATTRAC... HE ATTACKS PIERS IN
PARTICULAR FOR CHOOSING FOR THE
PROGRAM SCHUBERT'S
TROUT
QUINTET.
I'M NOT SURE IF YOU'RE AWARE OF
IT, BUT YOU LISTENED TO THAT AS
YOU WERE WAITING FOR ME TO
SPEAK.
BECAUSE VIKRAM SETH PUBLISHED IN
CONJUNCTION WITH HIS NOVEL A
DUAL CD WITH ALL THE MUSIC FROM
THE NOVEL.
SCHUBERT'S
TROUT QUINTET,
BEETHOVEN'S
OPUS 64,
BEETHOVEN'S OPUS NUMBER WO, UH,
1,
NUMBER 3 IN C MINOR.
SOME MOZART, SOME HAYDN.
THE FIRST CONTRAPUNTUS OF BACH'S
ART OF FUGUE,
WE PLAYED
THAT WHILE YOU WERE WAITING FOR
ME TO SPEAK.
SCHUBERT'S
TROUT QUINTET
IS ALSO THE BACKGROUND MUSIC FOR
THE BRITISH SITCOM,
WAITING FOR GOD.
IF ANY OF YOU WATCH IT ON
TELEVISION.
BUT IT'S A PIECE THAT IS OFTEN
PLAYED AND NICHOLAS SPARE, THE
MUSIC CRITIC, IS TIRED OF IT.
AND HE ATTACKS PIERS AND THE
GROUP FOR CHOOSING IT FOR
VIENNA.
AND HE DOESN'T HOLD BACK, PAGE 73.
"I HATE IT, I LOATHE IT, IT
MAKES ME ILL, IT'S SO KITSCH!"
AND THAT REMINDED ME OF MYSELF
RECENTLY.
I WAS IN A RESTAURANT WITH
FRIENDS, WITH PEARL OF COURSE
AND WITH FRIENDS.
AND I'D HAD A FEW DRINKS, AS IS
MY HABIT AND I WAS WAXING
ELOQUENT ON SOMETHING I REALLY
HATED.
AND I SAID WORDS VERY MUCH LIKE
THAT, I HATE IT, I LOATHE IT, IT
MAKES ME ILL!
AND THE WAITRESS, I THOUGHT
QUITE BRILLIANTLY, SAID TO ME,
AS SHE WAS POURING WINE, WHY DO
YOU HOLD BACK?

[Laughter]

Robert continues WHY DON'T YOU
LET US KNOW HOW YOU REALLY FEEL?

[Laughter]

Robert continues I GAVE HER A
VERY HANDSOME TIP BECAUSE I
THOUGHT IT WAS... THE TIMING WAS
PERFECT.
ANYWAY, NICHOLAS, SPEAKING OF
SCHUBERT'S
TROUT,
"I HATE
IT, I LOATHE IT, IT MAKES ME
ILL, IT'S SO KITSCH!
"I'M ASTONISHED THAT ANYONE
STILL PLAYS IT, NO, ON SECOND
THOUGHTS, I'M NOT ASTONISHED.
"SOME PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE THEIR
EARS TESTED.
"ACTUALLY, PIERS, DO YOU KNOW
THAT YOUR EARS ARE FAR TOO BIG?"
AND PIERS, ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN
THAT HE IS, SOPHISTICATED
LONDONER THAT HE IS, COMES BACK
WITH THE POLISHED MARVELLOUS
LINE, "FUCK YOU!"

[Laughter]

Robert continues AND HE
ACCOMPANIES THE COMMENT WITH A
GLASS OF WARM PUNCH POURED OVER
THE MUSIC CRITIC'S HEAD AND THIS
WAS MY INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD
OF A CHAMBER MUSIC QUARTET, I
LOVED IT.
IT IS A WORLD OF PASSION, OF
FEELING DEEPLY.
I GREW QUITE FOND OF PIERS, THE
FIRST VIOLINIST.
I KNOW HE IS A BULLYING BROTHER,
HE TRIES TO BE A BULLYING
COLLEAGUE IN A GROUP OF EQUAL
VOICES.
I KNOW THAT HE IS COLD TO
ANYBODY ELSE'S PAIN, ALTHOUGH
NOT TO HIS OWN PAIN ABOUT LO-
LOSING HIS LOVER, ALEX, WHO
MICHAEL HOLME CAME INTO THE
QUARTET TO REPLACE.
BUT THERE IS ONE LOVELY INCIDENT
IN THE NOVEL FOR WHICH I COULD
FORGIVE PIERS ANYTHING.
THEY GIVE A CONCERT AT THE
WIGMORE HALL.
IT'S A GREAT SUCCESS.
AND PEOPLE COME BACKSTAGE TO
CONGRATULATE THE QUARTET.
FROM PAGE 117, MICHAEL SPEAKING,
AS ALWAYS, "HELEN AND I ARE
CHATTING WITH A YOUNG WOMAN WHEN
WE OVERHEAR THE TAIL END OF ONE
OF PIERS' CONVERSATIONS WITH A
FAN.
"I AM SO SORRY, PIERS IS SAYING.
"IT'S A PROBLEM I'VE HAD SINCE I
WAS A CHILD.
"I'VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO DEAL
WITH STUPID QUESTIONS."
HA-HA!
I THOUGHT, WHAT A GREAT LINE.
I WOULD NEVER USE IT WITH AN
AUDIENCE.

[Laughter]

Robert continues BUT I RETIRED
FROM FULL-TIME TEACHING FIVE
YEARS AGO AND I WISH I HAD USED
THE LINE THEN.

[Laughter]

Robert continues WITH ALL THE
TEMPERAMENT AND THE DEEP FEELING
AND THE BICKERING AND THE PAIN
AND THE TENSIONS, IT IS A
MIRACLE TO ME THAT THE QUARTET
CAN PRODUCE ITS WONDERFUL, EQUAL
MUSIC, BUT IT DOES AND VIKRAM
SETH MAKES THE PROCESS SO CLEAR
TO ME.
FROM PAGE 12, MICHAEL SPEAKING,
"EVERY REHEARSAL OF THE MAGGIORE
QUARTET BEGINS WITH A VERY
PLAIN, VERY SLOW, THREE OCTAVE
SCALE ON ALL FOUR INSTRUMENTS IN
UNISON.
"NO MATTER HOW FRAUGHT OUR LIVES
HAVE BEEN OVER THE LAST COUPLE
OF DAYS, NO MATTER HOW ABRASIVE
OUR DISPUTES ABOUT PEOPLE OR
POLITICS, OR HOW VISCERAL OUR
DIFFERENCES ABOUT WHAT WE ARE TO
PLAY AND HOW WE ARE TO PLAY IT,
IT REMINDS US THAT WE ARE, WHEN
IT COMES TO IT, ONE."
I LEARNED SO MUCH IN THIS NOVEL
ABOUT CHAMBER MUSIC.
VIKRAM SETH, GREAT TRADITIONAL
WRITER THAT HE IS, KNOWS VERY
WELL THAT ONE OF THE FUNCTIONS
OF THE NOVEL IN ENGLISH, SINCE
ITS INCEPTION IN 1740 WITH
SAMUEL RICHARDSON'S
PAMELA
IS TO TEACH AND I
CAME AWAY FROM THE NOVEL TAUGHT.
MUCH OF WHAT I LEARNED WAS
DELICIOUS TRIVIA, I'M SURE
EVERYBODY ELSE KNEW, THAT I
DIDN'T KNOW, THAT WHEN A QUARTET
BUYS TICKETS TO FLY ON A PLANE,
THEY BUY FIVE TICKETS.
ONE IS FOR THE CELLO.
I DIDN'T KNOW THAT.
I HEAR YOU ALL DESPISE ME.

[Laughter]

Robert continues SOME OF THE
LESSONS I LEARNED PAINLESSLY
THROUGH THE EXCITEMENT OF THE
CHASE, THE SEARCH, THE QUEST,
AND THERE ARE MANY IN THE NOVEL.
WHEN THE RECORD COMPANY INVITES
THE QUARTET TO RECORD BACH'S
INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT
ART
OF FUGUE,
I FOUND OUT
THAT THERE IS A TREMENDOUS
PROBLEM FOR THE VIOLA.
FOR HELEN, IN THIS CASE.
BECAUSE TO PLAY
THE ART
OF FUGUE
THAT WAS THOUGHT
FOR SO LONG TO BE ONLY
THEORETICAL, THE VIOLA HAS TO BE
TONED AS MUCH AS A FOURTH DOWN
BELOW ITS NORMAL COMPASS.
HELEN HAS TO FIND AN OVERSIZED
VIOLA THAT WILL TOLERATE THE
TUNING-DOWN.
SHE HAS TO FIND OVERSIZED
STRINGS THAT WILL TOLERATE THE
PLAYING SO LOW.
SHE DOES IT SUCCESSFULLY THROUGH
THE INGENUITY OF THE HAIRY HUGO
THAT HER BROTHER SO DISAPPROVES
OF, BUT I WAS CAUGHT UP IN THE
EXCITEMENT OF THE CHASE, IN THE
CHALLENGE AND I AM... I LOVE
MUSIC, BUT I AM A NON-MUSICIAN.
BECAUSE OF VIKRAM SETH'S
BRILLIANTLY TAUGHT PROSE AND HIS
BRILLIANTLY PACED NARRATIVE, I
FELT MICHAEL'S EXCITEMENT WHEN
HE DISCOVERS THAT THE YOUNG
BEETHOVEN HAD WRITTEN
OPUS 1, NUMBER 3 IN C
MINOR
A TRIO, BUT THAT IN
HIS LATER YEARS, BEETHOVEN HAS
TRANSPOSED THAT INTO A PIECE FOR
A PIANO AND QUARTET.
OPUS 104,
HE'D NEVER
HEARD OF IT.
I FELT THE EXCITEMENT OF HIS
FRANTIC SEARCH FOR THE SCORE.
AND FOR A SIMILAR SEARCH FOR AN
ACTUAL LP, A LONG-PLAYING
RECORD.
OF AN EASTERN EUROPEAN'S
RENDERING OF THE SAME WORK.
I COULDN'T BELIEVE HOW CAUGHT UP
I WOULD BE IN THE JOYS AND THE
AGONIES OF FOUR MUSICIANS LIVING
IN A CLAUSTROPHOBIC LITTLE WORLD
AND IT IS A CLAUSTROPHOBIC
LITTLE WORLD.
AS HELEN POINTS OUT, WISE HELEN,
GENTLE HELEN, PAGE 220, "THIS
MORNING WHEN I WAS MAKING
COFFEE, I SUDDENLY REALISED HOW
BORING MUSICIANS ARE.
"ALL OUR FRIENDS ARE MUSICIANS
AND WE AREN'T INTERESTED IN
ANYTHING EXCEPT MUSIC, WE ARE
STUNTED, TOTALLY STUNTED, LIKE
ATHLETES."
AND NOW I SHOULD LEAVE THE
HOTHOUSE LITTLE WORLD OF THE
QUARTET AND CONSIDER IN SOME
DETAIL THE LIFE OF MICHAEL
HOLME.
THE SECOND VIOLINIST OF THE
MAGGIORE QUARTET, WHO HAD
REPLACED ALEX, PIERS' LOVER.
IT IS THROUGH HIS VOICE THAT THE
STORY IS TOLD.
AND IT'S A, A TREMENDOUS
DEPARTURE FOR VIKRAM SETH,
BECAUSE, IN HIS OTHER WORKS, HE
HAD ALWAYS PREFERRED AN
OMNISCIENT, THIRD-PERSON
NARRATOR, SOMEONE WHO STANDS
OUTSIDE AND SEES ALL, RECORDS
ALL, KNOWS WHAT IS IN
EVERYBODY'S MIND.
BUT THIS IS A STORY TOLD BY I.
I.
AND IT IS A MEASURE OF VIKRAM
SETH'S LOVE OF MUSIC, I THINK,
THAT HE FELT THE STORY OF AN
EQUAL MUSIC COULD ONLY BE TOLD
IN THE VOICE OF A MUSICIAN.
VIKRAM SETH BEGINS HIS NOVEL IN
THE MIDDLE OF MICHAEL HOLME'S
STORY,
IN MEDIAS RES,
IN
THE MIDDLE OF THE THING, AS ALL
EPICS BEGIN AND AS ALL GOOD
STORIES SHOULD BEGIN.
WHEN WE MEET HIM, MICHAEL HOLME
IS 37 YEARS OLD.
HE HAS BEEN WITH THE MAGGIORE
QUARTET FOR FIVE YEARS.
HE MAKES THE SAME PRECARIOUS
LIVING AS ALL MUSICIANS DO.
HE BELONGS TO A GROUP, AS MOST
MUSICIANS DO.
HE BELONGS TO A GROUP, HE GIVES
LESSONS AND HE FILLS IN AS
INVITED BY VARIOUS ENSEMBLES AND
ORCHESTRAS.
HE LIVES IN LONDON IN A LITTLE
EIGHTH FLOOR FLAT NOT FAR FROM
MARBLE ARCH, BAYSWATER.
AND ONE OF THE PLEASURES OF THE
NOVEL, THE MANY PLEASURES OF THE
NOVEL, IS VIKRAM SETH'S
INCREDIBLE ABILITY TO CONVEY A
SENSE OF PLACE.
I FELT MY BELOVED LONDON WHEN HE
WROTE ABOUT LONDON.
HE CAN CONJURE UP THE
SUFFOCATING CROWDS AND TRAFFIC
OF OXFORD STREET.
AS EASILY, HE CAN CONJURE UP THE
BEAUTY OF VENICE.
NOT JUST THE ARCHITECTURE OF
VENICE, OR THE WORKS OF ART IN
VENICE, BUT THE GLORY OF THAT
FIRST IMPRESSION OF VENICE AS
YOU ENTER IT BY TRAIN.
I REMEMBER ENTERING VENICE BY
TRAIN WITH PEARL AND I READ IT
HERE ON PAGE 326.
"CHALKY CLIFFS, HIGH CRAGS OF
ROCK COME INTO VIEW, WIDE SCREES
ON THEIR LOWER SLOPES AND THE
MILKY BLUE WATER BRAES OF A
BROAD, ALMOST DRY RIVERBED.
"WALLS OF TERRACOTTA AND OCHRE,
A RED-ROOFED TOWN IN THE SHADOW
OF A HULKING MOUNTAIN.
"ELDERBERRIES ALONG THE TRACK.
"GARDENS OF IRISES AND PINK
ROSES."
AND AS HE CAN RECREATE LONDON,
AS HE CAN RECREATE VENICE, SO HE
CAN RECREATE THE CHARMS OF OLD
VIENNA.
THE NOVEL ABOUNDS WITH
DESCRIPTIONS THAT SCREAM OUT TO
BE READ ALOUD, BUT FOR THE
MOMENT, WE ARE IN LONDON.
AND MICHAEL IS GIVING A LESSON
WHEN WE MEET HIM TO HIS 21-YEAR-
OLD FRENCH STUDENT, VIRGINIE,
WITH WHOM HE HAS HAD A ONE-YEAR
SLEEPOVER RELATIONSHIP.
BUT SHE WON'T PRACTISE, HER
PERFORMANCE IS POOR AND HIS MIND
WANDERS.
AND WE ARE ENTICED INTO HIS
PAST.
THE EVOCATIVE LINES, "WHERE ARE
YOU NOW, JULIA AND AM I NOW
FORGIVEN?
"I SEE HER PLAYING BACH TO
HERSELF," AND WITH THAT, WE GO
INTO MICHAEL'S PAST.
AND I'M GOING NOW TO HIS
BEGINNINGS.
HIS MEMORIES, AS ALL OUR
MEMORIES ARE, ARE HAPHAZARD.
THEY'RE NOT CHRONOLOGICAL.
BUT I WOULD TAKE THEM FROM THE
BEGINNING.
HE WAS IN THE MIDDLE LOWER-
CLASS, IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND,
IN LANCASHIRE, IN THE TOWN OF
ROCHDALE.
WHEN COTTON WAS KING, ROCHDALE,
A TEXTILE TOWN, WAS PROSPEROUS,
EVEN THE CENTRE OF MUSIC, BUT
WITH THE ADVENT OF SYNTHETICS,
THE TEXTILE TOWN HAS GONE INTO
LONG DECLINE.
MICHAEL WAS BORN THE SON OF A
BACK STREET BUTCHER.
AND VIKRAM SETH CAPTURES
PERFECTLY, UNBELIEVABLY
PERFECTLY, THE NICETIES OF A
BRITISH CLASS DISTINCTION.
ONE OF MICHAEL'S EARLIEST
MEMORIES WAS OF HIS MOTHER
DRUMMI... DRUMMING IT INTO HIS
HEAD, PAGE 27, "THAT I SHOULD
TALK PROPER."
TALKING PROPER.
THE WHOLE BRITISH CLASS SYSTEM
IS BASED NOT ON INCOME, BUT ON
HOW YOU SPEAK.
HOW YOU SPEAK.
IT'S ABSOLUTELY PRIMORDIAL.
HOW YOU SPEAK.
I CAN REMEMBER MYSELF, I WAS
CONSCRIPTED INTO THE BRITISH
ARMY, I WAS COMMISSIONED, I
BECAME AN OFFICER AND BY A
TERRIBLE ACCIDENT, I WAS
COMMISSIONED INTO A REGIMENT
WHERE I WAS THE ONLY OFFICER WHO
DID NOT HAVE A TITLE.
WHEN I OPENED MY MOUTH, I WAS
DEFINED AS A WELSH BOY WHO HAD
HAD MORE EDUCATION THAN WAS GOOD
FOR HIM.
I THOUGHT EVEN THEN OF BERNARD
SHAW'S
PYGMALION, MY FAIR
LADY.
PYGMALION,
WHERE
PROFESSOR HIGGINS SAYS, "ONE
ENGLISHMAN ONLY HAS TO OPEN HIS
MOUTH TO MAKE ANOTHER ENGLISHMAN
DESPISE HIM."
IT IS A CLASS SOCIETY EVEN NOW,
EVEN NOW.
SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE MADE GREAT
MONEY, BUT IF YOU GO, LET US
SAY, INTO THE STOCK MARKET, YOU
MAKE TREMENDOUS MONEY AND YOUR
VOICE HAS THE HINT OF A COCKNEY
ACCENT, OF A WORKING-CLASS
ACCENT, THEY WILL CALL YOU A
"BARROW BOY."
A BARROW BOY IS A PERSON WHO
SELLS FRUIT OFF A TRUCK.
CLASS DISTINCTION IN ENGLAND,
AND IT FIGURES LARGELY IN THE
NOVEL, NOVEL, IS SOMETHING I
THINK YOU HAVE TO BE BRITISH TO
UNDERSTAND.
AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, I'M
TALKING ABOUT 1900, THERE WAS A
GREAT ENTREPRENEUR, SIR THOMAS
LIPTON, OF LIPTON TEA, WHO
FOUNDED THE AMERICAS CUP,
INCREDIBLY PROSPEROUS, A HUGE
CHAIN OF RETAIL STORES, A GREAT
TEA IMPORTER, A GREAT FRIEND OF
THE KING.
EDWARD VII.
THEY WOULD GO ON YACHTS TOGETHER
AND ONE DAY IN THE COURT, ONE
COURTIER ASKED ANOTHER, "WHERE
IS THE KING?"
AND SOMEONE SAID, "HE IS OUT
BOATING WITH HIS GROCER."

Robert says I HAVE EVEN
FELT IT MYSELF, I HAVE BEEN THE
VICTIM AND I HAVE BEEN THE
PERPETRATOR, I HAVE BEEN WINED
AND DINED IN WONDERFUL
CIRCUMSTANCES BY SOMEONE IN
ENGLAND WHO THEN SAID TO ME, "I
HEARD "SOMETHINK" YESTERDAY."
YEUGH!

[Laughter]

Robert continues MICHAEL WAS
BORN IN THE BACK STREET OF A
NORTHERN ENGLISH TOWN, THERE IS
NO GETTING AWAY FROM THAT FOR
HIM.
HIS MOTHER SAID, "YOU MUST TALK
PROPER," BUT HE CAN'T TALK
PROPER.
MICHAEL'S FATHER, A BITTER MAN,
THE BUTCHER, EVER SINCE HIS
LITTLE SHOP WAS TAKEN AWAY FROM
HIM BY A COMPULSORY PURCHASE
ORDER BY THE LOCAL COUNCIL FOR A
HIGHWAY THAT WAS NEVER BUILT, IT
BECAME A CAR PARK, HE IS ANXIOUS
THAT HIS SON ENTER A PROFESSION
THAT WILL GIVE HIM MIDDLE-CLASS
SECURITY.
WHEN MICHAEL DECIDES ON MUSIC,
HIS FATHER IS FURIOUS THAT
MICHAEL MIGHT MOVE DOWNWARD ON
THE SOCIAL SCALE.
PAGE 28, "IT WON'T GET YOU A
BLOODY PENSION, MUSIC!
"YOU'LL END UP PLAYING IN A
PUB!"
NOW I KNOW THAT VIKRAM SETH IS
WELL-TRAVELLED.
HE HAS BEEN ALL OVER THE WORLD,
HE HAS SPENT SIGNIFICANT TIME IN
LONDON, HE KNOWS LONDON
INTIMATELY.
HE IS A MEMBER, VIKRAM SETH, THE
AUTHOR, OF THE SERPENTINE CLUB,
THE SAME CLUB THAT OUR
PROTAGONIST, MICHAEL HOLME,
BELONGS TO, THE CLUB OF YOUNG
MEN AND YOUNG WOMEN WHO BATHE
EVERY MORNING, WHATEVER THE
WEATHER, IN THAT MANMADE LAKE IN
HYDE PARK, THE SERPENTINE.
HE KNOWS LONDON BRILLIANTLY, BUT
HOW DID THIS TINY MAN, FIVE FOOT
NOTHING, FROM CALCUTTA, HOW DID
HE LEARN ENOUGH TO RENDER THE
COMPLEXITIES OF A ROCHDALE
CONVERSATION SO PERFECTLY?
IT ISN'T JUST THAT HE CAN
DESCRIBE THE BLEAK MAJESTY OF
THE LANCASHIRE MOORS AROUND
ROCHDALE, IT IS THAT HE GETS SO
PERFECTLY THE SPEECH PATTERNS,
THE SPEECH CONTENT OF THE LOWER
MIDDLE-CLASS IN NORTHERN
ENGLAND, INTO WHICH MICHAEL WAS
BORN.
CONSIDER WHAT OCCURS WHEN
MICHAEL HOLME THE ADULT MAKES
ONE OF HIS VISITS TO HIS WIDOWED
FATHER UP IN ROCHDALE, FROM PAGE
79.
"A FEW PEOPLE DROP IN, SOME OLD
FRIEND OF MY... OLD FRIENDS OF
MY PARENTS AND MY AUNTIE JOAN.
"FOLK WHO USED TO KNOW US FROM
THE TIME WE HAD THE SHOP,
NEIGHBOURS.
"MY MIND WANDERS AND IN COME THE
FRAGMENTS.
"OUR NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOUR BUT ONE
HAS DIED OF LIVER CANCER."
"MISS VASEY'S NIECE HAD A
MISCARRIAGE IN HER FOURTH, IN
HER FOURTH MONTH AND IF THAT
WASN'T ENOUGH, A TRUCK CRASHED
THROUGH THE FRONT OF HER SHOP
THE PREVIOUS MONTH.
"SUSIE PRENTISS' HUSBAND RAN OFF
WITH HER BEST FRIEND, OH, AN
EXCEPTIONALLY PLAIN WOMAN.
"AND THEY WERE TRACKED DOWN TO A
HOTEL IN SCUNTHORPE.
"SCUNTHORPE?! EXCLAIMS AUNTIE
JOAN, DELIGHTED AND APPALLED."
NOW VIKRAM SETH HAS A PERFECT
EAR!
THAT IS AS ACCURATE A RENDITION
OF EMPTY GOSSIPING, LOWER
MIDDLE-CLASS CONVERSATION AS I
HAVE EVER HEARD AND THAT
INCLUDES HAROLD PINTER, THE
GREAT ENGLISH PLAYWRIGHT, AND I
CANNOT OFFER HIGHER PRAISE.
MICHAEL GOES INTO MUSIC BECAUSE
OF SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED TO
HIM WHEN HE WAS NINE YEARS OLD,
A KINDLY NEIGHBOUR, A RICHER
NEIGHBOUR.
A FORMER CUSTOMER OF HIS
FATHER'S, Mrs. FORMBY, TAKES HIM
TO A PERFORMANCE OF HANDEL'S
MESSIAH
AND AT NINE YEARS
OLD, MICHAEL DECIDES, QUOTE, "I
WANT TO BE A PART OF THAT
NOISE."
AGAINST HIS PARENTS' WISHES,
WITH HIS PARENTS' GRUDGING
ACQUIESCENCE, HE BECOMES A
SCHOLARSHIP STUDENT AT THE ROYAL
NORTHERN COLLEGE OF MUSIC IN
MANCHESTER.
AND IT IS FROM THERE THAT HE IS
INVITED BY THE SWEDISH
PROFESSOR, HIS NAME IS WRITTEN
"KALL" BUT IT IS PRONOUNCED
"SHELL."
HE IS INVITED BY PROFESSOR KALL
TO AUDIT PROFESSOR KALL'S
CLASSES AT THE MUSIKHAUSCHUL IN
VIENNA.
AND MICHAEL GOES TO VIENNA TO
STUDY THE VIOLIN.
AND IT IS IN VIENNA THAT HE
MEETS JULIA McNICHOLL, A PIANO
STUDENT IN HER THIRD YEAR OF
STUDIES.
HE HEARS HER PLAY A MOZART
SONATA AT A STUDENT CONCERT,
THEY SPEAK, THEY ARE BOTH
BRITISH, WITHIN A WEEK, THEY ARE
LOVERS.
MICHAEL, MICHAEL'S LOVE OF MUSIC
BECOMES ONE WITH HIS LOVE OF
JULIA.
HE REMEMBERS 10 YEARS LATER,
PAGE 106, THAT "IT WAS WHEN SHE
HAD PLAYED BY HERSELF TO HERSELF
THAT I HAD MOST COMPLETELY
YIELDED MY BEING TO BACH AND TO
HER."
WITH JULIA'S FRIEND AND
CLASSMATE, THE CELLIST, MARIA,
THEY FORM A TRIO AND WHAT IS
INCREDIBLE IS THAT JULIA IS THE
DAUGHTER OF AN OXFORD HISTORY
PROFESSOR, AN OXFORD DON.
AS MICHAEL SAYS, PAGE 103, "SHE
HAD BEEN BROUGHT UP IN A WORLD
UNREACHABLY DIFFERENT FROM
MINE," AND YOU HAVE TO BE
BRITISH TO UNDERSTAND,
UNREACHABLY DIFFERENT.
"A WORLD UNREACHABLY DIFFERENT
FROM MINE, WHERE ART AND
LITERATURE AND MUSIC ARE
ABSORBED WITHOUT EFFORT OR
EXPLANATION FROM SPEECH AND
TRAVEL, FROM BOOKS AND RECORDS,
FROM THE VERY WALLS AND SHELVES.
"IT WAS SHE WHO BECAME MY BEST
TEACHER AND FOR THIS, AS FOR
EVERYTHING ELSE, I GAVE MY HEART
INTO HER HAND.
"SHE TAUGHT ME TO ENJOY ART, SHE
IMPROVED MY GERMAN, I LATER
REALISED THAT EVEN ABOUT MUSIC,
I HAD LEARNED MORE FROM HER THAN
FROM ANYONE ELSE.
BUT THE FLAW IN MICHAEL'S
CHARACTER NOW BEGINS TO REVEAL
ITSELF.
JUST AS HE ETHEREALISES JULIA,
THE WORD IS VIKRAM SETH'S, HE
ETHEREALISES JULIA, SO HE BEGINS
TO DEMONISE HIS TEACHER,
PROFESSOR CARL KALL.
JULIA, PROFESSOR KALL.
HE BEGINS TO HATE HIS TEACHER.
HE CONSIDERS LEAVING VIENNA,
JULIA COUNSELS AGAINST IT, FROM
PAGE 104, "THROUGH WINTER INTO
SPRING SHE TRIED TO TALK TO ME,
BUT I COULD NOT SPEAK TO HER OF
THE BLEAKNESS IN MY MIND.
"SHE TOLD ME NOT TO LEAVE ON BAD
TERMS WITH MY TEACHER, BUT MY
CONFLICT WITH HIM HAD PRESSED
ITSELF SO DEEPLY INTO MY SKULL
THAT HER DEFENCE OF HIM APPEARED
TO ME AN UNBEARABLE BETRAYAL."
HE BEGINS TO BELIEVE THAT CARL
KALL IS WILLING HIM TO FAIL AND
THAT JULIA HAS BECOME HIS
ACCOMPLICE.
WHEN JULIA AND MICHAEL AND THEIR
FRIEND, MARIA, THE TRIO, GIVE A
CONCERT, MICHAEL BREAKS DOWN ON
STAGE.
HE SEES, HE THINKS, PROFESSOR
KALL IN THE AUDIENCE, WILLING
HIM TO FAIL.
HE BREAKS DOWN, HE CAN PLAY NO
MORE, HE FLEES VIENNA AND, OF
COURSE, HE FLEES JULIA.
MICHAEL IS INCAPABLE OF NORMAL
HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS.
HE PROJECTS HIS PASSION FOR
MUSIC INTO LIFE.
HE CAN ONLY LIVE AND SEE OTHERS
IN EXTREMES.
10 YEARS LATER, 10 YEARS AFTER
HE FLEES VIENNA, MICHAEL HAS
TOURED IN EUROPE WITH THE
MAGGIORE QUARTET, PROFESSOR KALL
RETIRED TO HIS NATIVE STOCKHOLM
HAS SEEN HIM IN THE QUARTET AND
HAS WRITTEN TO HIM, HAS
CONGRATULATED HIM ON HIS
PERFORMANCE AND STILL MICHAEL
CAN SEE, ON PAGE 298, "CAN STILL
SEE HIM IN ANY AUDIENCE,
DISAPPROVING, JUDGING, MARKING
ME DOWN."
THE PSYCHIC FLAW IN HIS
PERSONALITY IS SO STRONG THAT
OCCASIONALLY IT MANIFESTS ITSELF
PHYSICALLY, A STIFFENING IN HIS
MIDDLE FINGERS, THAT HE CAN ONLY
OVERCOME BY INTENSIVE WARMING-UP
EXERCISES.
SINCE HE LEFT JULIA AND COME
BACK TO LONDON, WHAT DOES HE
HAVE?
FOR YEARS HE JUST PLAYED IN GIGS
AND THEN HE HAD THE MAGGIORE.
NOW HE HAS THE QUARTET.
HE HAS HIS EARLY MORNING DIPS IN
THE SERPENTINE.
HE HAS THE OCCASIONAL
MEANINGLESS AFFAIR WITH A
STUDENT.
HE HAS MANAGED TO FIND A LIFE OF
REASONABLE BALANCE, BUT IT IS A
LIFE OF ALMOST COMPLETE SOCIAL
ISOLATION.
AS MICHAEL PUTS IT, PAGE 71,
"LIFE HAS SETTLED INTO A
BEARABLE ALONENESS."
AT ANOTHER POINT, HE SAYS, "I
LIVE IN A NUMBED STATE OF SELF-
PRESERVATION."
HE FILLS HIS TIME, WHEN HE IS
NOT REHEARSING, WITH MELANCHOLY
WALKS THROUGH LONDON, ALWAYS
ALONE.
I LOVE THE WALKS, THEY ARE SO
DETAILED, BECAUSE I LOVE LONDON,
BUT...
IT IS NOT THE LIFE OF A BALANCED
MAN AND HE REACTS BADLY WHEN
ANYONE INTRUDES UPON HIM.
AT ONE TIME, HE IS WALKING ON
THE LITTLE GRASSY PLOT OUTSIDE
HIS APARTMENT BUILDING NEAR THE
MARBLE ARCH AND A VERY HORSY
WOMAN WITH A DIPHTHONG ACCENT...
VIKRAM SETH'S PHRASE, SAYS TO
HIM, "YOU'RE WALKING ON THE
GRASS."
EIGHT SYLLABLES IN THE WORD
"GRASS."
GRASS!
AND MICHAEL, OUT OF CLASS
HATRED, RESENTMENT OF A
STRANGER, RESENTMENT OF THE
INTRUSION ON HIS LONELINESS SAYS TO HER, PAGE 66, "WELL, I DON'T
USUALLY WALK UPON THE GRASS, BUT
OCCASIONALLY I THINK IT'S VERY
PLEASANT TO.
"THANK YOU FOR YOUR VIEWS ON THE
MATTER."
OH, I THOUGHT, THAT'S GOOD,
THAT'S GOOD.
"THANK YOU FOR YOUR VIEWS ON THE
MATTER."
FOR 10 YEARS MICHAEL HAS THOUGHT
OF JULIA, FOR 10 YEARS HE WROTE
MANY LETTERS WITHOUT ANY
RESPONSE, HE EVEN TRIED TO GET
IN TOUCH WITH HER THROUGH HER
PARENTS, UNTIL HER FATHER ONE
DAY PUT DOWN THE PHONE, SAYING,
"HAVEN'T YOU HURT HER ENOUGH?"
AND THE FEELING HAS SETTLED
WITHIN HIM INTO A SAVAGE ACHE.
TO BE PUT IN HIS MEMORIES BESIDE
PROFESSOR KALL.
AND THERE ARE OTHER TENSIONS,
THERE IS TERRIBLE, THERE IS HIS
TERRIBLE FEAR THAT HIS
BENEFACTOR, Mrs. FORMBY, WHO,
YEARS AGO, HAD LEANT HIM AN
INCREDIBLY OLD AND VALUABLE
ITALIAN VIOLIN, A TONONI, MIGHT
ONE DAY ASK FOR IT BACK, IT
WASN'T A GIFT, IT WAS A LOAN.
A VIOLIN THAT HE COULD NEVER
AFFORD TO BUY, BUT WHICH HAS
BECOME SO MUCH PART OF HIS LIFE.
AND THEN, WITH OUR PICTURE OF
MICHAEL FAIRLY COMPLETE, THERE
COMES A MARVELLOUSLY DRAMATIC
MOMENT, MARVELLOUSLY DRAMATIC,
BRILLIANT NARRATIVE.
MICHAEL IS ON A BUS IN OXFORD
STREET, OXFORD STREET
UNBELIEVABLY, BECAUSE AT ANY
GIVEN MOMENT, IT'S HOLDING
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE,
IS TWO-WAY TRAFFIC.
DOESN'T MOVE, BUT IT'S TWO-WAY
TRAFFIC.
HE'S ON THE TOP DECK OF A DOUBLE
DECKER BUS AND HE SEES OPPOSITE,
IN A BUS GOING THE OTHER
DIRECTION, JULIA.
AFTER 10 YEARS.
HE SCRIBBLES HIS PHONE NUMBER ON
A PIECE OF PAPER AND HE HOLDS IT
AGAINST THE GLASS OF THE BUS.
I CAN ONLY THINK OF ONE PARALLEL
MOMENT IN LITERATURE, IT'S IN
PASTERNAK'S NOVEL
ZHIVAGO,
WHEN ZHIVAGO
SEES HIS LOST LOVE.
THE BUS IS CROWDED, HE CAN'T GET
OUT.
THE SAME THING WITH MICHAEL, HE
STRUGGLES TO GET OUT, HE
STRUGGLES TO GET DOWNSTAIRS, YOU
HAVE TO UNDERSTAND LONDON BUSES
TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MIGHT
MEAN, BY THE TIME HE HAS GOT
DOWN, HER BUS HAS MOVED OFF.
HE GETS INTO A TAXI, THE TAXI
CRAWLS ALONG.
HE GETS OUT OF THE TAXI AND WHAT
IS INCREDIBLE IS HE'S IN THE BUS
BECAUSE HE HAS JUST FOUND A COPY
OF THE LONG-PLAYING RECORD OF
BEETHOVEN'S
OPUS 104
THAT
HE NEVER KNEW EXISTED.
THE TRANSFORMATION BEETHOVEN HAD
MADE OF THAT EARLY
OPUS
1, NUMBER 3
THAT JULIA
HAD ADORED.
A PIECE FOR TRIO.
HE'S JUST FOUND THE LP OF THE
QUINTET.
DIDN'T KNOW IT EXISTED.
AND WHEN HE RUNS AFTER THE BUS,
HE LEAVES IT BEHIND IN THE TAXI.
HE HAS SEEN JULIA, HE LOSES THE
LP RECORD.
AND OF COURSE, WHEN HE CATCHES
UP WITH THE BUS, JULIA IS NOT
THERE AND I THOUGHT IT WAS A
MASTER STROKE BY A MASTER
STORYTELLER, TO COMBINE THE TWO
EVENTS.
I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT THE
SEEING OF JULIA ALONE WAS ALL
THE NARRATIVE WEIGHT THAT THE
MOMENT COULD BEAR.
TO ADD THE LOSS OF THE RECORD IN
THE TAXI WAS TO TEST OUR
RESILIENCE, BUT IT WORKED
BECAUSE IT REMINDED US OF HOW
JULIA AND MUSIC WERE
INEXTRICABLY LINKED IN MICHAEL'S
MIND AND IN OURS.
AND THEN, WITH DELICIOUS
NARRATIVE SKILL, VIKRAM SETH
ARRANGES TO HAVE THE TAXI
DRIVER, AN HONEST MAN, FIND THE
RECORD, GO TO THE STORE, HAVE
THE CUSTOMER IDENTIFIED AND
RETURN THE LP RECORD TO MICHAEL
IN HIS FLAT.
BUT THEN, ONE QUESTION RESOLVED,
ANOTHER TENSION IS SET UP.
ON A VISIT TO HIS FATHER UP IN
ROCHDALE, MICHAEL'S BENEFACTOR,
Mrs. FORMBY, SAYS, I MIGHT HAVE
TO HAVE THE TONONI BACK.
MY NEPHEW IS PRESSURING ME TO
SET UP AN EDUCATIONAL FUND FOR
MY GREAT-NIECES.
SHE HAS MADE NO DECISION, BUT
THE TENSION IS THERE.
AND WHILE ALL THIS EXCITEMENT IS
GOING ON, VIKRAM SETH HAS
BALANCED THE STORY WITH MUSIC,
WITH THE PREPARATION BY THE
MAGGIORE QUARTET FOR A CONCERT
AT LONDON'S WIGMORE HALL.
AND THE CONCERT IS A GREAT
SUCCESS.
HAYDN, MOZART, BEETHOVEN, HOW
COULD IT BE OTHERWISE?
AND FOR AN UNCLE, THE STRING
QUARTET PLAYS THE FIRST
CONTRAPUNTUS, THE FIRST FOUR AND
A HALF MINUTES OF BACH'S
ART OF FUGUE.
AND THE MOMENT IS GLORIOUS.
HOW DOES MICHAEL DESCRIBE IT,
PAGE 114?
"WE PLAY ALMOST WITHOUT VIBRATO,
KEEPING THE BOW ON THE STRING,
TAKING OPEN STRINGS WHEREVER
THEY FALL NATURALLY, EVEN IF IT
MEANS THAT OUR PHRASES DO NOT
EXACTLY REPLICATE ONE ANOTHER'S.
"WE PLAY WITH SUCH INTENSITY,
SUCH CALM, AS I NEVER IMAGINED
WE COULD EITHER FEEL OR CREATE."
A PERFECT MUSIC, AN EQUAL MUSIC.
AND AMONG THOSE WHO COME
BACKSTAGE AFTER THE CONCERT TO
CONGRATULATE THEM IS JULIA.
SHE DIDN'T KNOW THAT MICHAEL WAS
A MEMBER OF THE MAGGIORE
QUARTET, SHE CAME FOR THE
CONCERT, SHE SAW MICHAEL
ONSTAGE, SHE WASN'T GOING TO
COME BACK, BUT WHEN SHE HEARD
THE FIRST FOUR AND A HALF
MINUTES OF BACH'S
ART OF
FUGUE,
THE MUSIC DREW HER
BACKSTAGE.
THEY TALK.
THEY ARRANGE TO MEET NEXT DAY.
AND SETH BRILLIANTLY EXTENDS THE
TENSION, THEY DO NOT SPEAK WHEN
THEY MEET.
THEY GO TO ONE OF THE GLORIES ON
LONDON, THE WALLACE COLLECTION
AND THEY WANDER THROUGH THE
WALLACE COLLECTION AND THEY
BARELY EXCHANGE A WORD, THEY
ARRANGE TO MEET THE FOLLOWING
DAY AND IT IS ONLY AT THEIR
THIRD MEETING, IN KENSINGTON
PALACE GARDENS, THAT THEY SPEAK
AND MICHAEL SAYS, "JULIA, I
STILL LOVE YOU."
ONLY TO BE TOLD THAT SHE IS NOW
MARRIED WITH A SON.
SHE REPROACHES MICHAEL FOR
FAILING TO CONTACT HER AFTER HE
FLED VIENNA 10 YEARS EARLIER.
SHE SAYS, PAGE 138, "YOU COULD
HAVE WRITTEN AFTER YOU LEFT
EXPLAINING THINGS."
"I DID WRITE, MONTHS LATER."
"I AFTER I'D SLOWLY GONE TO
PIECES.
"I DIDN'T TRUST MYSELF TO OPEN
YOUR LETTERS WHEN THEY FINALLY
STARTED COMING."
AND THEN A MARVELLOUS SENTENCE,
ALMOST MONOSYLLABIC, SO SIMPLE,
SO BEAUTIFUL.
"I HAD THOUGHT OF NOTHING,
NOTHING BUT YOU, EVERY HOUR,
EVERY DAY, WHEN I SLEPT, WHEN I
WOKE."
THEY EXCHANGE ADDRESSES.
SHE COMES TO HIS APARTMENT.
SHE PLAYS FOR HIM THAT SAME
MOZART SONATA THAT HE FIRST
HEARD HER PLAY IN VIENNA.
HE LENDS HER THE LONG-PLAYING
RECORD OF BEETHOVEN'S
OPUS 104,
SHE ALSO HAD
NEVER HEARD OF IT, SHE SHARES
HIS EXCITEMENT AT THE DISCOVERY
THAT HE HAD TRANSPOSED THE TRIO
TO A QUINTET.
THEY MAKE MUSIC TOGETHER.
AND THEY MAKE LOVE.
THEY MAKE LOVE.
NOW THERE IS NO DOUBT IN
ANYONE'S MIND, JULIA'S,
MICHAEL'S, OURS, THAT JULIA
LOVES HER HUSBAND, THE KIND,
SENSITIVE AMERICAN, THE
BOSTONIAN, JAMES HANSEN.
SHE NOW PLAYS AS JULIA HANSEN
AND ITS IRONIC, BECAUSE MICHAEL
HAS HEARD OF HER, BUT HE WAS
ALWAYS LOOKING FOR JULIA
McNICHOLL.
THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT SHE LOVES
HER LITTLE BOY, LUKE AND I ASKED
MYSELF AS I READ THIS NOVEL FOR
THE FIRST TIME, I KNOW, WHY,
WHY, WHY?
WHY?
WOULD JULIA, WHO HAS FOUND
HAPPINESS, WHO HAS GOT A SON,
WHO LOVES HER HUSBAND, WHY WOULD
SHE COME TO MICHAEL'S FLAT TO
REKINDLE A PASSION THAT CAN ONLY
HURT ALL OF THEM?
AND THE ANSWER IS MADE CLEAR ON
PAGES 174 AND FOLLOWING.
MICHAEL: "I LOVE YOU."
JULIA: "AND I, YOU."
BUT IT IS MORE THAN THAT.
EVEN AS JULIA HESITATES ABOUT
BETRAYING... THE WORD IS HERS...
HER HUSBAND AND HER SON, SHE
SAYS, "I'VE BEEN SO HUNGRY TO
SPEAK OF MUSIC.
"AND TO PLAY IT WITH SOMEONE WHO
UNDERSTANDS ME AS I WAS, BEFORE,
BEFORE THE CHANGES IN MY LIFE."
FOR JULIA, MICHAEL IS MUSIC,
VIENNA AND HER YOUTH.
AND ONCE AGAIN, THEY BECOME PART
OF EACH OTHER'S LIVES.
MICHAEL BEGINS TO FOLLOW HER.
ON ONE OCCASION, HE FOLLOWS HER
TO A PARK.
SHE SEES HIM, SHE IS WITH HER
SON, SHE INTRODUCES THEM AND AT
ONE MOMENT, WHEN SHE IS TO ONE
SIDE, MICHAEL, WHO IS SPEAKING
TO LUKE, THE LITTLE BOY, DOESN'T
UNDERSTAND SOMETHING THAT LUKE
SAYS TO HIM.
PAGE 181, HE SAYS, "I DIDN'T GET
THAT, YOU'RE MUMBLING."
"OH, IT'S THE WAY I SPEAK, SAID
LUKE.
"BUT YOU SPOKE SO CLEARLY A
LITTLE WHILE AGO."
"OH, THAT'S BECAUSE MUM FINDS IT
HARD TO HEAR ME, SHE'S DEAF."
THE BOY IS FRIGHTENED AT WHAT
HE'S SAID.
JULIA McNICHOLL, JULIA HANSEN
HAS GONE DEAF A FEW YEARS
EARLIER.
ALMOST STONE DEAF.
NO ONE KNOWS.
HER HUSBAND, HER SON, HERSELF,
HER AGENT, NO ONE ELSE.
AND THINGS BECOME SO CLEAR AS WE
READ THAT PART OF THE NOVEL, WHY
DID JULIA SAY FAX ME, DON'T
PHONE ME, FAX ME.
BUT THE REVELATION FOR ME WAS SO
MUCH MORE THAN THAT.
IT WAS A KEY POINT OF THE NOVEL.
"THAT'S BECAUSE MUM FINDS IT
HARD TO HEAR ME, SHE'S DEAF."
FOR THE FIRST TIME, SHE'S DEAF,
FOR THE FIRST TIME I REALISE THE
UNDERLYING STRUCTURE OF THE
NOVEL.
I AM NOT TECHNOLOGICALLY
COMPUTER LITERATE, BUT FRIENDS
HAVE TOLD ME THAT SOMEWHERE ON
THE AMAZON INTERNET, SOMEONE HAS
CALLED
AN EQUAL MUSIC
A
SYMPHONY.
NOT SO.
THERE ARE TWO FEW VOICES.
I KNOW THAT THE CRITIC, THE
LITERARY CRITIC IN
THE
INTERNATIONAL HERALD-
TRIBUNE
SAID THIS BOOK
WAS A SONATA, QUOTE, "SUBLIME
AND MELANCHOLY," TRUE SOMETIMES
OF THE MOOD, BUT NOT OF THE FORM
OF THE NOVEL.
WHEN LUKE UNWITTINGLY ADMITTED
HIS MOTHER'S DEAFNESS, IT
CONVINCED ME THAT THE MUSICAL
FORM THAT IS CLOSEST TO THE
NOVEL IS THE FUGUE.
AND PERMIT ME FOR A MOMENT TO
DIGRESS AND REFRESH YOUR MEMORY.
THE FUGUE, THAT MUSICAL FORM
PERFECTED BY BACH, COMES FROM
THE LATIN WORD
FUGA,
MEANING "FLIGHT" OR "FOLLOWING."
THE FUGUE IS ESSENTIALLY A
MUSICAL CONVERSATION BETWEEN
PARTS.
A PART CAN BE A VOICE OR AN
INSTRUMENT OR A DIFFERENT PART
OF A KEYBOARD.
THE FIRST PART OF THE FIRST
VOICE OF THE FUGUE STATES THE
SUBJECT AS A SHORT MELODY.
THE SECOND VOICE RESPONDS WITH A
SUBTLY MODIFIED VERSION OF THE
MELODY, THEN A THIRD, A THIRD
VOICE CAN ENTER THE CONVERSATION
AND SO ON.
THE IDEA OF FLIGHT, FOLLOWING,
COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THE
VOICES FOLLOW EACH OTHER.
SOMETIMES THE VOICES WILL
DIGRESS FROM THE MAIN SUBJECT,
THE STATES MELODY, UNTIL ONE OF
THE VOICES REINTRODUCES IT.
I... AS I UNDERSTAND IT AND TWO
OF MY COUSINS IN MONTREAL ARE
PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS AND WE
SPENT MUCH TIME TOGETHER ON THE
NOVEL, AS I UNDERSTAND IT, AT
ITS BEST, AS MY COUSIN,
FLORENCE, EXPLAINED IT TO ME.
SHE WHO HAD HER DEBUT SOME TIME
AGO IN CARNEGIE HALL.
SHE SAID, AT ITS BEST, THE FUGUE
IS CONSTRUCTED NOT ONLY AS A
MUSICAL CONVERSATION, BUT AS A
DRAMA, GRADUALLY BUILDING IN
POWER, WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF
NEW VOICES AND COUNTERSUBJECTS.
BUT ALWAYS RELYING FOR ITS
STRUCTURE ON EXPOSITION AND
RESPONSE, POINT AND
COUNTERPOINT.
EACH VOICE IN A FUGUE HAS A
STATEMENT OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE TO
MAKE.
THE FUGUE IS A MUSICAL
CONVERSATION BETWEEN EQUALS.
THE FUGUE IS AN EQUAL MUSIC.
AT THE END OF A FUGUE, THERE IS
RESOLUTION.
ALL THE IDEAS ARE BROUGHT
TOGETHER IN ONE FINAL STATEMENT
OF COMPLEXITY AND POWER, THE
LISTENER MUST FEEL AT THE END OF
A FUGUE THAT ALL ISSUES HAVE
BEEN SETTLED, ALL QUESTIONS HAVE
BEEN ANSWERED, THERE IS NOTHING
MORE TO SAY.
IF I HAD TO SUM IT UP, THE FUGUE
IS A MUSICAL CONVERSATION AMONG
EQUALS BASED ON POINT AND
COUNTERPOINT, WHICH ENDS WHEN
ALL THE ELEMENTS OF THE
CONVERSATION ARE BROUGHT
TOGETHER IN A FINAL SATISFYING
CLIMAX.
NOW IF THE FUGUE IS BASED ON
POINT AND COUNTERPOINT, THEN SO
IS THIS NOVEL.
ON THE ONE HAND, MICHAEL'S LOVE
OF MUSIC, ON THE OTHER, HIS LOVE
OF JULIA.
ON THE ONE HAND, DEMONISED
PROFESSOR KALL, ON THE OTHER
HAND, ETHEREALISED JULIA.
FROM JULIA'S POINT OF VIEW, ON
THE ONE HAND, DECENT, SENSITIVE
HUSBAND JAMES HANSEN, ON THE
OTHER, TORMENTED MICHAEL, HER
SOULMATE IN MUSIC.
ON THE ONE HAND, THE FLAW IN
MICHAEL'S CHARACTER, ON THE
OTHER, THE PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENT
IN JULIA HANSEN.
MICHAEL'S VOICE, JULIA'S VOICE,
IT'S ONLY WHEN I HEARD OF HER
DEAFNESS THAT I REALISED THAT
THE NOVEL IS A FUGUE IN PROSE.
THERE ARE OTHER VOICES,
CONTRIBUTING VOICE, PERHAPS THEY
ARE NOT EQUAL VOICES, PROFESSOR
KALL, THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE
MAGGIORE QUARTET, PERHAPS THEY
ARE ONLY WHAT WE CALL IN MUSIC,
DECORATION.
BUT THERE ARE OTHER VOICES, BUT
THEY ARE ALWAYS RESTATING THE
SAME THEME, THE CENTRALITY OF
MUSIC AND THE CENTRALITY OF
LOVE.
AND NOW ONCE I BECAME CONVINCED
THAT THE INFORMING STRUCTURE OF
THE NOVEL WAS THAT OF THE FUGUE,
THEN I LOOKED FORWARD TO THE END
OF THE NOVEL, WHEN ALL ISSUES
WOULD BE RESOLVED, ALL QUESTIONS
WOULD BE ANSWERED, BUT WE ARE
NOT AT THE END OF THE NOVEL YET.
THE AFFAIR CONTINUES.
MICHAEL MEETS JULIA'S HUSBAND.
HE MAKES A STATEMENT TO JULIA,
"I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT YOU," AND
SHE MAKES HER RESPONSE, THE
COUNTERPOINT, PAGE 196, "I DO
WANT TO SHARE MY LIFE AND MY
MUSIC WITH YOU IN SOME WAY, BUT
I CAN'T LIVE TWO LIVES, I AM
AFRAID OF HURTING EVERYONE."
MATTERS COME TO A HEAD WHEN THE
MAGGIORE QUARTET IS INVITED TO
GO TO VIENNA TO GIVE AN
IMPORTANT SCHUBERT CONCERT.
AND PIERS CHOOSES, FOR ONE OF
THE PIECES, NICHOLAS SPARE'S
HATED SHOUTS, UH, SCHUBERT'S
TROUT QUINTET.
FOR VIOLIN, VIOLA, CELLO, BASS
AND PIANO.
THEY WILL TAKE ON A BASS PLAYER
IN VIENNA.
THEY NEED A PIANO PLAYER.
AND INITIALLY, UNKNOWN TO
MICHAEL, THEIR AGENT HIRES JULIA
HANSEN.
JULIA WILL JOIN THE QUARTET FOR
ONE PART OF THE VIENNA CONCERT,
FOR THE
TROUT.
MICHAEL'S ALREADY CONFUSED BY
HER REAPPEARANCE AND NOW THAT
SHE IS COMING WITH THEM TO
VIENNA, QUOTE, "THINGS SEEMED TO
BE CLOSING IN ON ME," THE DI...
THE DIZZINESS, THE ANXIETY
ATTACKS THAT HE EXPERIENCED AT
VIENNA WITH JULIA AND PROFESSOR
KALL ALL COME BACK TO HIM.
HE DOESN'T REACT WELL TO STRESS,
MICHAEL AND THERE IS ANOTHER
STRESS, DOES HE TELL THE OTHER
MEMBERS OF THE QUARTET THAT
JULIA, THEIR PIANIST, IS DEAF?
SHE CAN'T HEAR THEM.
IT'S A SECRET.
WE HAVE POINT AND COUNTERPOINT,
LOYALTY TO THE GROUP, LOYALTY TO
JULIA.
AT FIRST HE FUDGES AND THEN, AT
THEIR FIRST REHEARSAL IN LONDON,
THEY HAVE, AS YET, NO BASS.
JULIA HAS PROBLEMS WITH THE
THIRD MOVEMENT OF THE
TROUT.
SHE MISSES THE DEEP RHYTHMIC
IMPULSE THAT WOULD HAVE HELPED
HER IMMEASURABLY.
MICHAEL HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO
CONFIDE IN THE OTHER MEMBERS.
INITIALLY JULIA IS HORRIFIED AT
THE BETRAYAL, BUT SHE IS A
MUSICIAN, SHE REALISES THAT
MICHAEL REALLY COULD DO NOTHING
ELSE.
REHEARSALS CONTINUE.
THEY HIRE A BASS FOR THE
REHEARSALS.
ALTHOUGH JULIA DECIDES, QUOTE,
PAGE 286, "THIS CONCERT WILL BE
THE LAST TIME I PLAY WITH OTHER
PEOPLE.
AND AT THIS POINT, I WAS, AS I
AM NOW, I WAS SWEATING WITH
TENSION.
THE NOVEL HAS ALL THE QUALITIES
OF A FIRST CLASS THRILLER,
PROBLEM, SOLUTION, PROBLEM,
SOLUTION.
POINT, COUNTERPOINT.
I COULDN'T HAVE BELIEVED I WOULD
BE SO CAUGHT UP IN THE TENSION
OF PREPARING A PIECE OF MUSIC.
AND THEN THEY ALL GO TO VIENNA.
AFTER 10 YEARS, MICHAEL, JULIA
GO TO VIENNA WITH THE OTHER
MEMBERS OF THE QUARTET.
PIERS WILL BOW OUT OF THAT PART
OF THE CONCERT, THE SCHUBERT'S
TROUT QUINTET,
IN FAVOUR
OF MICHAEL, THE SECOND
VIOLINIST, ALTHOUGH PIERS LOVES
THE PIECE, BECAUSE PIERS KNOWS
THAT IN THE
TROUT
QUINTET,
THE REAL
CONVERSATION IS BETWEEN THE
VIOLINIST AND THE PIANO.
AND HE KNOWS THAT THE SPECIAL
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MICHAEL AND
JULIA CAN ONLY ENHANCE THE
MUSIC.
PIERS, IRASCIBLE, STUBBORN,
OPINIONATED, BULLYING AS HE IS,
HIS FIRST LOYALTY IS TO THE
MUSIC.
AND THE CONCERT IN VIENNA IS
PURE DRAMA.
THE FIRST PIECES BEFORE THE
INTERMISSION GO WELL.
BUT THEN THE INTERMISSION BEFORE
THE
TROUT QUINTET
AND
MICHAEL APPEARS TO BREAK DOWN
AGAIN AS HE HAD SO MANY YEARS,
10 YEARS EARLIER, IN VIENNA,
AGAIN HE STARTS TO SEE PROFESSOR
KALL IN THE AUDIENCE.
THE ONLY COUNTERACTION TO
PROFESSOR KALL IS JULIA AND IN
THE INTERMISSION, BACKSTAGE, SHE
PLAYS WITH MICHAEL A LITTLE
SCHUBERT, A
LIEDER.
AND HE RECOVERS SUFFICIENTLY TO
GO ON AND THE CONCERT IS A GREAT
SUCCESS.
BUT THEN THE QUARTET HAVE BEEN
INVITED ON TO VENICE.
PLAY AT THE BIRTHDAY PARTY OF A
RICH PERSON AND RELUCTANTLY
JULIA, ALTHOUGH SHE WILL NOT
PLAY, AGREES TO GO WITH MICHAEL.
THEY TRAVEL BY TRAIN, THE OTHERS
FLY AND THAT IS WHEN THEY GO
INTO VENICE BY TRAIN AND SEE THE
MAGIC OF VENICE AND IT IS IN
VENICE THAT MICHAEL'S HOPES
SOARS, PAGE 361, "SURELY WHAT
WAS LOST SO STUPIDLY, SO SWIFTLY
AND IN SO SHORT A TIME CAN BE
RETRIEVED, REDONE, BROUGHT BACK
TO LIFE ONCE MORE."
HE AND JULIA ARE REUNITED WITH
THEIR OLD TRIO PARTNER, THE
CELLIST, MARIA.
THEY PICNIC WITH MARIA'S FAMILY.
THEY IMMERSE THEMSELVES IN THE
GLORIES OF VENICE, THEY IMMERSE
THEMSELVES IN EACH OTHER'S
BODIES.
THEY WAKE AT DAWN TO SEE THE SUN
RISE.
THEY GO, MICHAEL CARRYING THE
TONONI VIOLIN, TO VIVALDI'S
CHURCH, THE CHURCH WHERE VIVALDI
TOOK THE LITTLE GIRLS FROM AN
ORPHANAGE AND MADE OF THEM THE
GREATEST MUSICIANS IN EUROPE.
AND THEY HEAR THE CACOPHONY OF A
REHEARSAL OF SOME MODERN TRASH.
WHEN THE REHEARSAL IS OVER,
THERE IS A PIANO AND JULIA SAYS,
"SHALL WE EXORCISE THE CHURCH?"
AND THEY MAKE MUSIC TOGETHER IN
VIVALDI'S CHURCH.
THEY EXCHANGE WONDERFUL GIFTS.
JULIA GIVES MICHAEL AN
EXQUISITE, HANDMADE BOOK, A
BLANK BOOK, INTO WHICH SHE HAS
COPIED PAINSTAKINGLY THE FIRST
FUGUE OF BACH'S
ART OF
FUGUE.
THE TIME IS BEAUTIFUL, THE TIME
IS MAGIC, THEY ARE IN VENICE AND
VIKRAM SETH'S PROSE RISES TO THE
OCCASION, THEY ARE IN LOVE, THE
MOMENT IS PERFECT.
IT HAS EVERYTHING, IT EVEN HAS
HUMOUR.
HUMOUR.
AT ONE TIME, THEY KISS, THEY
CARESS, AND THERE IS A
SURVEILLANCE CAMERA AND AN
ELDERLY ATTENDANT IS SHOCKED TO
SEE WHAT THEY ARE DOING.
AND WE LAUGH AND IT'S PERFECT.
AH AND THEN POINT AND
COUNTERPOINT, PERFECTION AND
MADNESS, MICHAEL GOES MAD, MAD!
HE DESTROYS EVERYTHING.
HE HAD EVERYTHING AND HE
DESTROYS IT.
HE FINDS A LETTER THAT JULIA HAS
JUST WRITTEN TO HER HUSBAND, HE
FINDS IT AND HE READS IT.
IT IS FULL OF HOW SHE LOVES HER
HUSBAND, HOW SHE MISSES HIM, HOW
SHE CAN'T WAIT TO GET HOME.
IT IS FULL OF PET TALK ABOUT
THEIR LITTLE TEDDY BEAR,
BENNINGTON.
SHE USES HER HUSBAND'S PET NAME,
"JIMBO."
AND MICHAEL, CURSED BY HIS
INABILITY TO LOVE OTHER THAN IN
EXTREMES, GOES MAD WITH RAGE AND
JEALOUSY.
AS HE AND JULIA MAKE LOVE, HE
TEARS AT HER, HE BITES HER.
HE BITES HER, HE MAKES MARKS ON
HER THAT WILL LAST DAYS.
PAGE 376, "YOU'RE MAD," SHE
SAYS, "LOOK AT THESE MARKS!"
MICHAEL: "POOR JIMBO, I WONDER
WHAT HE'LL MAKE OF THOSE MARKS
WHEN HE MEETS YOU AT THE
AIRPORT.
"DO YOU THINK HE'LL BRING THE
TEDDY BEAR ALONG?
"MY TONGUE IS AS BRUTAL AS MY
TEETH, SHE STARES AT ME AND
CRIES OUT, A HORRIBLE SOUND OF
RAGE AND HURT AND DISBELIEF AND
VIOLATION."
IT IS OVER, IT IS DONE.
FROM WHAT MICHAEL HAS DONE THIS
TIME THERE IS NO RECOVERY.
MICHAEL, JULIA, THE QUARTET,
THEY ALL RETURN TO LONDON.
HE TO PREPARE WITH THE QUARTET,
THEY ARE RECORDING FOR THE
COMPANY OF BACH'S
ART OF
FUGUE,
JULIA TO HER LIFE
WITH HER HUSBAND AND HER SON.
MICHAEL WILL SEE HER AGAIN, HE
WILL GO TO HER HOUSE.
HE WILL SEE HER HUSBAND, WHO IS
COLD TO HIM AND HE WILL SEE
JULIA, BUT JULIA WILL TELL HIM
THAT SHE HAS MADE HER DECISION,
PAGE 417.
"I HAVE TO LEARN PEACE AGAIN FOR
MY OWN SAKE AND FOR LUKE AND FOR
JAMES, WHO LOOKS LOST AND TIRED.
"I HAVE BECOME RESTLESS AND
UNCERTAIN AND AFRAID AND GUILTY.
"I KNOW THAT I CANNOT COPE WITH
SEEING YOU OR KNOWING THAT IT IS
POSSIBLE TO SEE YOU."
JULIA WILL MAKE HER LIFE WITH
HER HUSBAND, JAMES.
PAGE 420, "HE COMFORTED ME, HE
MADE ME HAPPY, HE KEPT ME SANE,
HE GAVE ME COURAGE."
AND THEN MICHAEL BLURTS OUT A
SERIES OF QUESTIONS WHICH I
FOUND THE MOST REVEALING OF
CHARACTER IN THE NOVEL.
"AND I CAN'T KEEP YOU HAPPY?
"AND I CAN'T COMFORT YOU?
"AND I CAN'T KEEP YOU SANE?"
AND I REALISED FOR THE FIRST
TIME HOW LITTLE MICHAEL
UNDERSTANDS OF HIMSELF.
OF COURSE HE CANNOT KEEP JULIA
SANE OR HAPPY OR COMFORTED.
HE COULDN'T IN VIENNA 10 YEARS
AGO AND HE CANNOT IN LONDON NOW.
THE EXTREMES OF HIS TEMPERAMENT,
WHICH HE DOESN'T FULLY
UNDERSTAND HIMSELF, MAKES IT
IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO ACHIEVE
BALANCE IN HIS LIFE OR TO HELP
ANOTHER TO ACHIEVE BALANCE IN
HERS.
WHAT MICHAEL CAN DO IN MUSIC, HE
CANNOT DO IN LIFE.
MICHAEL MUST LIFE WITHOUT JULIA,
IT IS OVER.
HE GOES TO WHORES.
HE READS THE LITTLE CARDS YOU
SEE IN THE LONDON PHONE BOOTHS.
HE PHONES THE NUMBER, HE GOES TO
THE APARTMENT, HE FORNICATES
WITH THE WOMAN AND AFTERWARDS,
HE WEEPS.
HE WEEPS.
AND YET, IN THIS BRILLIANT
STORY, POINT AND COUNTERPOINT,
HE LOSES JULIA, BUT HE GAINS THE
TONONI VIOLIN.
HE GETS A LETTER FROM Mrs.
FORMBY, WRITTEN BEFORE SHE DIED.
Mrs. FORMBY, WHO HAD HINTED THAT
SHE MIGHT WANT IT RETURNS AND...
RETURNED AND SHE TELLS HIM AND
HE GETS A COPY OF THE WILL THAT
SHE LEFT IT IN HER WILL.
FREE OF ESTATE TAX, INDEED, HER
NEPHEW RELUCTANTLY WILL PAY THE
ESTATE TAX.
MICHAEL HAS HIS TONONI FREE AND
CLEAR AND WE REALISE HOW MUCH IT
MEANS TO HIM, WE HAVE JUST LIVED
THROUGH HIS COLLEAGUE, PIERS, AN
AUCTION WHERE PIERS, WHO BID
30,000 POUNDS MORE THAN HE OWNED
IN THE WORLD FOR A VIOLIN HE
CRAVED, AND DID NOT GET IT AT
THE AUCTION, WE KNOW HOW MUCH AN
INSTRUMENT CAN MEAN.
THE MARVELLOUS PARALLELISM IN
THE NOVEL.
MICHAEL GOES UP WITH NOW HIS
TONONI, HIS VIOLIN, HE GOES UP
TO LANCASHIRE, HE GOES UP TO
BLACKSTONE EDGE ON THE LONELY
LANCASHIRE MOORS, WHERE Mrs.
FORMBY'S ASHES HAVE BEEN
SCATTERED.
AND HE TUNES THE LOWEST STRING
OF HIS VIOLIN DOWN TO F.
AND HE PLAYS FOR Mrs. FORMBY,
HIS DEAD BENEFACTOR AND FOR HIS
LOST LOVE THE GREAT UNFINISHED
FUGUE FROM BACH'S
ART OF
FUGUE.

[cell phone ringing]

Robert says MMM.

[audience tittering]

Robert says IT'S AS
MAGNIFICENT A SCENE AS I CAN
REMEMBER OF ITS KIND, THE
VIOLINIST PLAYING BACH, ALONE ON
A GREAT LANCASHIRE MOOR, A
LONELY FIGURE PLAYING MUSIC, IT
IS A SCENE STRAIGHT OUT OF THE
ROMANTIC MOVEMENT IN ENGLISH
LITERATURE, THAT MOVEMENT THAT
TOOK PLACE BETWEEN 1790 AND
1830, I'M THINKING OF
WORDSWORTH, SHELLEY, BYRON.
THE SOLITARY VIOLINIST PLAYING
HIS MUSIC FOR HIS DEAD
BENEFACTOR AND HIS LOST LOVE ON
A LONELY MOOR.
AT THIS MOMENT, HE IS THE
PERFECT ROMANTIC HERO, HE IS
STRAIGHT OUT OF WORDSWORTH, HE
HAS EVERY QUALITY OF WORDSWORTH'
ROMANTIC HEROES.
HE IS MELANCHOLY, ISOLATED,
INTROSPECTIVE AND ABOVE ALL,
SELF-CENTRED.
Mrs. FORMBY HAS DIED AND HE HAS
LOST JULIA, BUT IT IS NOT REALLY
JULIA HERSELF OR WHAT JULIA
MIGHT HAVE SUFFERED THAT IS
IMPORTANT TO MICHAEL, WHAT
MATTERS TO MICHAEL ABOVE ALL
ELSE IS HIS OWN EMOTION.
AND I REALISED AT THAT POINT
THAT OF COURSE, IN THE 10 YEARS
AFTER VIENNA, HE COULD HAVE
FOUND JULIA.
OF COURSE HE COULD HAVE!
ANY COMPETENT PRIVATE
INVESTIGATOR WOULD HAVE FOUND
HER IN TWO DAYS.
BUT MICHAEL WAS ENJOYING HIS
AGONY TOO MUCH.
THAT'S THE MARK OF THE ROMANTIC
HERO.
WE REALISE THAT ON MICHAEL'S
INTENSELY ROMANTIC STAGE, THERE
IS NO ROOM FOR SECONDARY
CHARACTERS LIKE OTHER PEOPLE.

[Laughter]

Robert continues IT IS A
WONDERFUL SCENE, MICHAEL ALONE
WITH HIS MUSIC ON THE MOOR,
BECAUSE IT IS EMBLEMATIC OF THE
WHOLE NOVEL IN ITS FOCUS ON
MICHAEL AND WHAT MICHAEL IS
FEELING AND THEN I REALISE, THIS
ISN'T JUST A FIRST-PERSON
NARRATIVE NOVEL, IT IS MICHAEL'S
EMOTION, THERE IS NOTHING ELSE
IN THE NOVEL!
AND NOW MICHAEL IS ALONE WITH
HIS VIOLIN.
ACTING AS HE ALWAYS DOES IN
EXTREMES, HE HAS QUIT THE
MAGGIORE, THE QUARTET.
HE IS NOW ALONE, SUPREMELY
ALONE, ABSOLUTELY ALONE.
HE ALSO FEELS THAT HE HAS NO
PLACE, HE IS DERACINATED, HE IS
ROOTLESS.
HE THINKS OF ROCHDALE, PAGE 480,
"NOT ROCHDALE, NOT MY HOME, NOT
ROCHDALE WITH THE HEART TORN OUT
OF IT, THE MURDERED STREETS OF
MY CHILDHOOD GUTTED INTO
VERTICAL SLUMS.
"LONDON, NOTHING ESSENTIAL TO MY
HEART KEEPS ME IN LONDON NOW.
"LONDON IS A JUNGLE, IT IS NO
LONGER, IF IT EVER WAS, MY
HOME."
HE IS SUPREMELY ALONE, IT IS THE
ULTIMATE DESIRE OF THE ROMANTIC
HERO, LOOK AT ME!
THE ONLY HOME HE HAS IS MUSIC,
BUT HE HAS LEFT THE MAGGIORE
QUARTET.
ALL HE HAS NOW IS PLAYING AS A
COMPROMISE WITH THE NEED TO EARN
A LIVING.
VIKRAM SETH SAYS IT ALL THROUGH
MICHAEL'S VOICE AT ONE OF HIS
FILL-IN GIGS, PAGE 446, "THE
CAMERATA ANGLICA
IS
PLAYING AND MOST OF THE PLAYERS
ARE GAGGING.
"BUT THIS IS MEAT AND MORTGAGE
TO ME NOW AND MY BOW GOES UP AND
DOWN IN PERFECT RHYTHM AND
INTONATION."
AND THE FINAL EVENT OF THE NOVEL
IS THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT JULIA
HANSEN IS GOING TO PLAY AS A
PIANO SOLO, THE 90 MINUTES OF
BACH'S
ART OF FUGUE
AT
LONDON'S WIGMORE HALL.
SHOULD MICHAEL ATTEND OR NOT?
HE HESITATES.
UNTIL THE CONCERT IS SOLD OUT.
ON THE NIGHT HE TRIES FOR A
RETURN TICKET AT THE BOX OFFICE,
BUT NO LUCK, IT'S A NICE TOUCH
OF NARRATIVE TENSION BY VIKRAM
SETH.
WE ARE NOW ON THE PENULTIMATE
PAGE OF THE NOVEL.
BILLY, THE CELLIST, ARRIVES, HIS
FORMER COLLEAGUE FROM THE
MAGGIORE, GIVES UP HIS TICKET TO
MICHAEL AND WE ENTER THE CONCERT
AND THE LAST PAGE OF THE NOVEL.
LET ME READ FROM THE LAST PAGE.
AND NOTICE HOW OFTEN HE USES THE
WORD "I."
"I AM IN THE FRONT ROW OF THE
BALCONY.
"A MURMUR FILLS THE HALL, I LOOK
DOWN ON THE HEADS OF THE CROWD
BELOW, IN THE FIFTH ROW I SEE A
SMALL BOY, I WOULD THINK THE
ONLY ONE HERE AND NEXT TO HIM,
HIS FATHER.
"SHE ENTERS, LOOKS AT THEM AND
SMILES, FOR A MOMENT, FOR MORE
THAN JUST A MOMENT, SHE CASTS
HER EYE AROUND, THEN SHE SITS
DOWN AT THE PIANO, THERE IS NO
FORCED
GRAVITAS
IN HER
PLAYING.
"IT HAS A BEAUTY BEYOND
IMAGINING, CLEAR, LOVELY,
INEXORABLE, PHRASE ACROSS
PHRASE, PHRASE ECHOING PHRASE.
"THE INCOMPLETE, THE UNENDING
ART OF FUGUE,
IT IS AN
EQUAL MUSIC."
AS FAR AS THIS NOVEL IS THE
STORY OF JULIA HANSEN, IT HAS
COME TO AN END.
IT HAS COME TO AN END FOR JULIA
WITH ALL ISSUES SETTLED, ALL
QUESTIONS ANSWERED AND IT IS
FITTING THAT SHE ENDS WITH A
STATEMENT OF POWER AND
COMPLEXITY, BACH'S
ART OF
FUGUE.
BUT FOR MICHAEL, THE STORY HAS
NOT ENDED AND HE CANNOT BEAR
THAT JULIA HAS COMPLETED HER
FUGUE, HER JOURNEY, HER
CONVERSATION.
AT THE INTERVAL, AFTER THE 11th
CONTRAPUNTUS ABOUT THE FUGUE, HE
SAYS, I CANNOT HEAR ANY MORE.
HE LEAVES THE CONCERT.
THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF THE NOVEL,
"I PUSHED THROUGH THE CROWDED
LOBBY INTO THE RAIN.
"I WALK A LONG WHILE THROUGH THE
STREETS, THE DARKNESS OF THE
PARK, ONCE MORE I STAND BY THE
SERPENTINE."
ONCE AGAIN HE IS STAGING
HIMSELF, HE IS DIRECTING
HIMSELF.
THE RAIN HAS WASHED MY EARLIER
TEARS AWAY, MUSIC, SUCH MUSIC,
IS A SUFFICIENT GIFT.
WHY ASK FOR HAPPINESS, WHY HOPE
NOT TO GRIEVE?
IT IS ENOUGH, IT IS TO BE
BLESSED ENOUGH TO LIVE FROM DAY
TO DAY AND TO HEAR SUCH MUSIC,
NOT TOO MUCH OR THE SOUL COULD
NOT BEAR IT, FROM TIME TO TIME."
WILL SUCH MUSIC THAT JULIA
HANSEN PLAYS BE ENOUGH FOR
MICHAEL TO HEAR FROM TIME TO
TIME?
WILL HE BE ABLE TO SURVIVE THE
IMBALANCE OF HIS LIFE AS THE
LONELY, THE ISOLATED TRAGIC HERO
IN THE GREAT VOID, THE GREAT
EMPTINESS THAT HE HAS CREATED?
PERHAPS SO.
SUICIDE, THE TAKING OF HIS LIFE,
THAT'S OKAY FOR A ROMANTIC HERO.
TOO GREAT TO BE CONFINED BY THE
WORLD.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO HIM, WELL, I
THINK OF WHAT PIERS SAID WHEN HE
QUIT THE MAGGIORE, HE LOOKS AT
MICHAEL AND HE SAYS, "I THINK
FIVE OR SIX YEARS IS NOT ENOUGH
TO KNOW A PERSON."
I HAVE ONLY KNOWN MICHAEL HOLME
FOR 484 PAGES.
WILL HE BE ABLE TO BEAR TO GO ON
LIVING?
THE TRUTH IS THAT I REALLY HAVE
NO IDEA AND I THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[Applause]

A caption reads "A co-production of TVOntario and Robert Adams Inc."

Watch: Robert Adams on "An Equal Music" by Vikram Seth