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Wunderkind: A Novel Paperback – June 12, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451616945
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451616941
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,174,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Wunderkind is a gift for all the senses. Nikolai Grozni’s shimmering, visceral prose unfurls like music, as if a baby grand served as his infernal typewriter.”

—Patti Smith, bestselling author of Just Kids

“With heartbreaking insight, Wunderkind portrays the searing brutalities of life in Communist Eastern Europe—and the power of music to provide solace and redemption. I found myself astonished, amazed, and moved by this remarkable novel.”

—Lauren Belfer, bestselling author of City of Light and A Fierce Radiance

“Nikolai Grozni’s Wunderkind is an elegant, graceful novel that captures not only the power and beauty of music, but the stifling oppression of life in a totalitarian state. The novel sings and howls, and in its finest moments, takes the reader’s breath away.”

—Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

“Shrewd, rhapsodic, Nikolai Grozni’s Wunderkind fuses high romanticism with sinister, hard-edged humor. A love-hate letter to a Bulgaria that no longer exists, it contains some of the most vivid, celebratory writing about music I’ve ever read.”

—Zachary Lazar, author of Sway

“In this fine portrait of a suffocating society, what are especially remarkable is the vitality—Konstantin is a rebel with a cause, his anger contagious—and the way Grozni writes about music. Rapturous and insightful . . . passages [are] a real adrenaline rush. . . . [T]his passionate novel should be pushed on anyone interested in music, politics, or energized coming-of-age tales.”

—Library Journal

“Grozni's writing is colorful and strong.”

Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Nikolai Grozni is a Bulgarian-born American writer. Grozni wrote his first book, the acclaimed memoir Turtle Feet, while living in India, where he spent four years as a Buddhist monk. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Brown University. He lives with his wife, the author Danielle Trussoni, and their children in France.

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Customer Reviews

While this book cannot be recommended for everyone, I give it my highest recommendation.
Burgmicester
The stories of his past were good, but I wish Grozni had let them stand on their own, let Konstantine figure things out for himself.
Ellen W.
The language is at once tight, crisp and lush and has a beautiful, almost musical flow to it.
Live2Cruise

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Burgmicester VINE VOICE on August 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Every once in a while, I come across a book that changes my thoughts about a time and place, darkens my mental outlook, eats at me from the inside and stays with me all day. Wunderkind does all the above by placing me into a very uncomfortable mental state deepening my understanding of what was even when I thought I knew. Now I know that I did not.

Konstanin, a gifted and brilliant musician is placed into a special school where the Communist leaders own you: your thoughts, actions, and future. It is a story of romance and pure hormonal actions where depicting between the two is impossible. But in the end, it is a story of how life is unfair, that people are placed into situations that have no solution. The writing is raw and grim. The grime and dirt and psychological pressures gnaw at the reader until you cannot put the book down.

Nicolai Grozni in his second novel displays talent that is remarkable; the metamorphosis of the musical phrasing into real unadulterated life takes your breath away. Taking his past life as a pianist in Bulgaria during the Russian occupation in the 1980's, Grozni masterfully uses his musical escape to symbolize and describe his life during that most difficult time. Grozni spares no emotion. I laughed out loud, wiped the sting from my eyes, felt pure hatred and anguish and I squirmed, but I never wanted it to end.

This is an ambitious work that superbly accomplishes a tour de force in as little as 288 pages. However, as his music demanded, he also demands that the reader follow his well paced metronome. The rhythms are unique and equally forceful upon the reader. Racing through the pages is not allowed and Grozni expertly keeps the reader in check.

While this book cannot be recommended for everyone, I give it my highest recommendation. This just might be the best book that I've read this year.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By W. Sanders VINE VOICE on December 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After finishing Nikolai Grozni's book Wunderkind, I realized that the best part of the book put me in touch with Chopin in a way I had never experienced. I downloaded the musical pieces I could find on the Web either for sale in iTunes or as MP3 files that were freely available. Listening to the music and reading different parts of the book where Chopin's meanings in the music were revealed was just plain fun. Every second of the book in these musical chapters was a joy.

The rest of the book was a bit up and down. For me, Bulgaria's experience in the world is one of mystery. I know that they were under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire for about 500 years, emerging along with the rest of the Balkan states in the 19th century as a unique but commonly confused state with the rest of the region. After WWII they were the only state that sided with the Nazis who emerged from the conflict with more territory than when they went in. Then, the poor sods came under the Soviet rule. However, unlike Tito's Yugoslavia that had a good deal of autonomy and were the only communist state in the region not in the Warsaw Pact, Bulgaria not only sided with the Soviets, they embraced a Stalinist style state to make sure that the imperialists' liberal ideas didn't take root in their emerging worker's paradise.

At the same time, the Bulgarians were very keen on developing world class musicians in the classical mold. Those youths recognized as "gifted" were sent to the Sofia Music School for the Gifted and Grozni's concept of "gifted" reminded a bit of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Gronzni basically argues that the 'gifted' are special and posses a special magic that the rest of us just don't have.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Maine Colonial TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
You don't have to be a music maven to be taken by Wunderkind, but I can only imagine how much richer it would be if you were. Grozni is as much a virtuoso with words as his protagonist, Konstantin, is with the piano, and his descriptions of musical performances take you fully into the experience. But it's not just his descriptions of performances. It's everything, even just a walk down the gray streets of Sofia, Bulgaria. Every few pages I'd read a passage I'd linger over and savor.

Grozni's teenagers Konstantin, Irina, Vadim and Alexander at the Sofia Music School For the Gifted are full of raging hormones and outraged despair at the gray, repressive communist state and its apparatchiks in the school's faculty and administration. It's the late 1980s; the last gasp of the communist regime, but of course they don't know that. Ladybug, Konstantin's piano teacher, tells him to focus on his music and quit rebelling against those doctrinaire teachers in his non-musical courses, but he can't. His rebellion accelerates to a breakneck and self-destructive pace, just so he can feel alive in the part of his existence away from the piano, the place where he pours out all the color and emotion within himself.

There's not much of a plot here. The book's pages gush a torrent of words someone might use upon waking from a nightmare and wanting to tell everything that happened before it all evaporates from his mind. But that torrent of words carried me away.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Live2Cruise VINE VOICE on October 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a dark, gritty, sometimes difficult read set in Bulgaria prior to the fall of communism. The narrator of the story is Konstantin, a brilliant but disillusioned adolescent pianist who is training at a special high school for musicians. Despite its musical focus, the school never ceases to push party doctrine on the students. Konstantin finds himself disgusted at the "sheep" mentality of those around him which is in stark contrast to his own rage against the system.

There is a heavy focus on music throughout the novel. I have a musical background, but I was lost in some places. I didn't find that this detracted from the story (although it did feel a bit frustrating at times). The point, however, is not the technicalities of the music, but the meaning of the music in the story-- how it moves the characters, drives them, punishes them, owns them, and saves them. Music is the one light in Konstantin's dull, grey world, his source of meaning; his relationship with the music and with those who speak his same language is touching, and eloquently portrayed.

There is no question that the novel is very heavy, and difficult in places. The setting is dark (Sofia is constantly covered by rolling grey clouds), reflecting a monochromatic life of automatonism. Konstantin often seems like a beautiful, angry bird beating his wings uselessly against a cage. His musings about his life and the world around him are frequently depressing as he feels increasingly suffocated and trapped. It is the darkness of the tone that makes the novel so effective.
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