Noemi Lefebvre, Cecile Menon, Sophie Lewis, Anais Mims
A French woman haunted by her encounter with an American-German pianist-composer who is obsessed with Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, flies home with her lively sister and a volume of Adorno’s letters to Thomas Mann. While the impossible heroine unpicks her social failures the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. Noemi Lefebvre shows how music continues to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures.
'These subjects, ranging from anxiety that his sexual desirability is dependent on his girlfriend imagining she's sleeping with the next Schoenberg, to the paralysing effect of nazism on art, to beautiful insights into the compositional process, ensure that the book is no melancholic meditation on lost loves. For a comparatively short novel, 'Blue Self-Portrait' yokes together an extraordinary profusion of ideas.' -- Eimear McBride. 'Were we to note the musical expression with which Blue Self-Portrait is performed, it would be con bravura, or even staccato: unchained, wildly.' -- BOMB -- 'Like an application of the prose style of Thomas Bernhard to a particular female experience more reminiscent of Bridget Jones: a form of acute social embarrassment and chronic self-deprecation. The strength of Lefebvre's novel is that it holds this private anxiety in balance not just with the highbrow cultural references of a well-educated European elite (Brecht, Mann and Adorno all get nods) but with the trauma of the Continent's recent history.' Times Literary Supplement; 'We are in Berlin, we are in France, we are in a plane; we are between countries and places and present and past, we are between different minds and different moments... Lefebvre's narrative is rich and engaging, and Lewis' translation - which I imagine must have been a tough one to do - never falters for a moment. This is a weighty, literary, text, and other than length it is not a "small" book. It is ideas and emotion-rich, and for anyone else who's all into this contemporary stream of consciousness revival, it's definitely worth your time.' Scott Manley Hadley, The Triumph of Now; 'As the plot unfolds among Berlin's cultural institutions Lefebvre's musical prose reflects the multidisciplinary approach of the artist it pays homage to.' Big Issue North; " 'L'autoportrait bleu' calls to mind fine lacework, all fancy stitching, a delicate succession of interconnected loops. Nothing but beautiful work here. In this devilishly virtuosic text, which also evokes contrapuntal music, Noemi Lefebvre writes like a genuine composer. It's rare to find a writer successfully able to lend a musical shape to their text. Lefebvre has taken up the challenge in this astonishing, vertiginous account." (Le Figaro litteraire,10 best debut novels of 2009) "The dense, fine-tuned, ever perfectionist writing in this debut novel reinforce its immediacy, grips the reader to the point of obsession." (L'Humanite) "I think this may be a 'master(?)piece." (Charles Boyle, author and publisher)
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