‘What am I going to do?’ I groan to myself. I have only
a few moments left before she slips into the waterfall. A
Brahms symphony blasts through my head, and with it the
sound of the river, of the wind, of the tram that rolls right
above us, obliterating all else. Then I lift my hand. I wave
to my mother. And still I’m not certain if it really happened.
But I think I remember it. I see it as though it were
yesterday: She lifts her left hand. She waves back. Yes.
That is the final image I have of my mother alive, before she
slips into the waterfall, before her head is smashed against
the sharp rocks, before the mortuary, and all the awfulness.
She waves to me. Dying. She waves to me, to Aksel Vinding,
because I am her son, and because it was only ever me
At a family picnic, 16-year-old Aksel’s wild, beautiful mother
is drowned while swimming, drunk, in a fast-flowing river.
Aksel’s father is unable to confront his wife’s death and the
family sinks into isolation and bereavement. Gradually Aksel,
a talented pianist, determines that he will dedicate his life to
his mother’s memory by playing the music she loved.
is about the betrayal of young people by the
adults who have them in their charge. But it is also about the
inner resources of these young musicians, the intensity of the
passion between them, and their bold attempts to reach out
and help one another and themselves. The novel leaves us
with complex questions about the creative process itself,
and ultimately asks whether it is possible to produce our
most exquisite art forms without personal suffering.
Translated from Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin and Erik Skuggevik
‘A family drama, a novel about artists and a captivating
portrayal of a young man’s obsession and love’
- Lars Saabye Christensen, author of The Half-Brother
‘As erotic as it is musical. The reader senses in the
anxiety and expectation that something is about to
- Die Zeit
‘A piercingly beautiful and horrifying novel about music
and love, death and sexuality’
‘Quite simply, superb!’
- Le Point
KETIL BJØRNSTAD, an international jazz pianist, made his
literary debut in 1972 as a poet. He has written novels, plays
and essays, as well as fictionalised biographies of artistic
figures. His novel The Story of Edvard Munch
in the UK in 2001 (Arcadia).
Publication date for To Music
: 10th July 2009
Return to books