Piano by Jean Echenoz

Every so often I come across a book that stirs a desire in me. I must read everything the author has ever written. In my childhood it was Enid Blyton. I was doing nicely. Until that is a teacher told my parents that I was reading too much of her.

In later years I had the librarians in Exeter digging around ‘the stack’ It’s their collection of books that aren’t on public display. anymore. For I had a penchant for the oh so very noir works of Patrick Hamilton that were no longer in publication. Thomas Hardy, John Steinbeck, Annie Proulx and Joshilyn Jackson and Eckhart Tolle are all writers where I’ve gone the extra mile to seek our their books.

A few years back a pop up second hand job appeared in town. It was one of those places that smelt a bit musty and unpromising but I perceived with rooting around. I came across an library version of Piano by Jean Echenoz. Seemingly there is life for old books even after the stack! I was drawn to the book by its retro cover and I thought that it was worth a go. It’s been sitting in my rainbow bookcase ever since. But last week I finally got around to pulling it out. There’s a bit of regret that I haven’t read it sooner.

Jean Echenoz is a well known author in France. He’s won prestigious prizes but I’d never heard of him. His storytelling is sublime and I marvel at his imagination. There’s laugh out loud humour, pathos and remarkable twists. I’m so surprised that Echenoz isn’t well known in this country. But I’m delighted that there are another five books in translation. Enough to keep me going between my other reading for a little while.

Because of its cover I mistakenly thought that ‘Piano’ might have been written in the 1950s but it’s an edgy 21st century work. It tells the story of Max, a lonely alcoholic piano virtuoso who dies and goes to………….. You’ll have to read the book to find out. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for the one or two who may delve further. Nonetheless Echenoz’s depiction of afterlife possibilities isn’t mainstream at all!

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