To Music - Ketil Bjornstad

‘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 and her.

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.

To Music 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 happen’
- Die Zeit

‘A piercingly beautiful and horrifying novel about music and love, death and sexuality’
- Jyllands-Posten

‘Quite simply, superb!’
- Le Point

About the Author

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 was published in the UK in 2001 (Arcadia).

Publication date for To Music: 10th July 2009

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