Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

"Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett (Fourth Estate, 2002)

Some people are held captive in an isolated house by terrorists. 3 woman, many men. People from several countries, one translator. A famous singer and some music lovers. Music, chess and love conquer the language divides. They have time to decide what they want from life.

"I thought we would be dead by now, or if not dead then regularly begging for our lives, but instead I sit and I consider opera" (p.174)

Gen, the multi-language translator, is granted the most insights

  • The personal feelings of the translator were not the question here. It was not Gen's business to edit the conversation. It was hardly his business to listen at all.
  • Every day when she sang he felt deeply moved, but he did not love her (p.219)
  • This is why it felt like, to be a man with a woman. This was the Gen had missed in all the translation of language (p.250)

"It's easier to love a woman when you can't understand a word she's saying," Roxane said (p.223)

For Cesar, one of the terrorists, music becomes sexualised. He learns to sing - When he forgot a line, Roxane Coss sang it in a surprising tenor voice: I asked the Gods for hills and springs; they listened to me at last. Then Cesar repeated the line. It was not unlike watching a calf rise up for the first time on spindly legs, at the same time awkward and beautiful (p.300). The repeated "time" is awkward.

I wondered at the end whether it needed to be over 300 pages.

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