Nonsense can also be real – What I loved

‘What I loved’ by Siri Hustvedt

Amazing book.
Siri Hustvedt’s style of writing is extremely compelling and it is clearly a book that makes good reading. I enjoyed every page, every word that was part of this book.
Hustvedt not only created utterly realistic and imperfect characters but also a whole fictional world of art. Frankly, I was surprised, well rather shocked and maybe a bit disappointed, that one of the main characters, the artist Bill Wechsler, and his gorgeous work do not exist. Her description of his different paintings and installations made me a big fan of his work – funny, given that, I have never seen it but only read about them.
This is just an example of what Siri Hustvedt is capable of.
The Story of “What I Loved” is not something you will expect. The twists are a complete surprise but utterly touching and good and … simply wonderful.
Siri does not only tell an amazing story and describes fictional art work but she also refers a lot to different psychological issues such as hysteria or eating disorders. She gives the reader food for thought all the time, but you do not get bored by it. Quite the opposite, you rather long for it.

This book is about the complexity of art and how art is always seen differently –  always depending on who is looking at.
It is an homage to friendship, a story about the importance of sharing a life as friends and how a person can mean the world to you.
It is about love and how it fades away. Sometimes slowly and hardly even recognis
able. And sometimes something happens and at that very second you are incapable of loving someone you loved before.
It is about madness, hysteria and all the mental craziness of our society.

It is about so much more. I cannot name everything.
In conclusion, the book has everything (and maybe even more) I search for in a book. Certainly one of the best books I have read lately.

Favourite quote:

“I don’t want the words to be naked the way they are in faxes or in the computer. I want them to be covered by an envelope that you have to rip open in order to get at. I want there to be a waiting time -a pause between the writing and the reading. I want us to be careful about what we say to each other. I want the miles between us to be real and long. This will be our law -that we write our dailiness and our suffering very, very carefully.”

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He wrote music for the ears that could hear.

1937 in Leningrad with Stalin as the dictator. A man is sitting next to an elevator. He is waiting all night through. Waiting for Power to come and to take him to the Big House. But few, who were taken to the Big House, came back.

Julian Barnes chose a real Person for his new novel “The Noise of Time” Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich. One of the most famous and greatest soviet composers. Barnes reveals his difficult history in a wonderful way and with incredible, unbelievable talent.

The book is not a chronological report of Shostakovich’s life. Frequently, he interrupts the story with train of thoughts, reflections, flashbacks and memories. No, interrupt is the wrong word. “To enhance the story amazingly” suits better. All the thoughts and interjections are helping to understand Shostakovich’s personality, attitude and intention.

Barnes creates with an intensive, rich in images but nevertheless clear style of writing a formidable realistic and subtle picture of the composer. The author was gifted the talent to not only write feelings, but to let them live.

It feels like you could literally feel the fear, the self-doubts, the desolation and depression of Shostakovich. Barnes creates a small window, through which the reader can catch a glimpse of an artist’s life, oppressed by the Marxist-Leninist Soviet.

I think, the book helped me to understand his music, thanks to the acquired background. Even though Shostakovich “says”: What he hoped was that death would liberate his music: liberate it from his life […] his music would be . . . just music” (page 179). Frankly, before this book, I have simply admired his music, now I am beginning to understand.

Julian Barnes does not only tell the story of Shostakovich. Moreover he gives place to criticism. He levels criticism against other artists, but first and foremost there is critique of the system. A critique which is utterly reasonable and not in the least overblown. Quite the contrary. He opens the reader’s eyes and shows how it really was these days ago. How terrifying. Horrific. Cruel. And consequently the question arises: “How is the situation today? Am I, are we, the same cowardly audience, naïve and gullible, as the people are described in “The Noise of Time”?

Even though you are no aficionado of Shostakovich or his music, even though you could not care less about music, I can only recommend this book. It’s awesome, wonderful written, singularly and unforgettable. One of the best books I have read lately.