Tuesday 14 April 2020

Book Review: Self-Portrait with Russian Piano by Wolk Wondratschek (Literary Fiction)

Title: Self-Portrait with Russian Piano
Author: Wolf Wondratschek
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: 1 September 2020
eBook - EPUB
Literary Fiction
ARC via NetGalley


Vienna is an uncanny, magical, and sometimes brutally alienating city. The past lives on in the cafes where lost souls come to kill time and hash over the bygone glories of the twentieth century—or maybe just a recent love affair. Here, in one of these cafes, an anonymous narrator meets a strange character, “like someone out of a novel”: a decrepit old Russian named Suvorin. A Soviet pianist of international renown, Suvorin committed career suicide when he developed a violent distaste for the sound of applause. This eccentric gentleman—sometimes charming, sometimes sulky, sometimes disconcertingly frank—knows the end of his life is approaching, and allows himself to be convinced to tell his life story. Over a series of coffee dates, punctuated by confessions, anecdotes, and rages—and by the narrator’s schemes to keep his quarry talking—a strained friendship develops between the two men, and it soon becomes difficult to tell who is more dependent on whom. 

Self-Portrait with Russian Piano was an engaging and thoughtful work. The lyrical prose was the perfect balance to the music-infused story, and the piece presented interesting character studies of both Suvorin and the narrator, while also pursuing interesting themes such as the nature of art and its impact on our lives. This is perhaps not a piece that will appeal to every reader, but I found it captivating and would definitely read more from this author in the future.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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