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Appassionata Hardcover – May 5, 2009
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. As a child, Hoffman studied piano and dreamed of performing professionally until she redirected her ambition toward writing; here she wields her expertise in both with dazzling success. Acclaimed American pianist Isabel Merton, on tour in Europe, becomes romantically entangled with Anzor Islikhanov, a semiofficial representative of Chechnya who follows her around Europe. They are both enthralled to personal passions—hers for music, his for his ravaged country—and their relationship intensifies with thrilling inevitability as a Chechen radical leader (with whom Anzor is not-so-secretly sympathetic) manipulates Anzor's allegiance to his homeland and drives a wedge between him and Isabel. Hoffman's prose is reliably gorgeous, and while the narrative lends itself nicely to sharp commentary and observations on politics, power and the role of the United States in a changing world, what's memorable is the way Hoffman maps the intersection of art, history and man's striving for meaning. (May)
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From The New Yorker
This unconventional novel follows the parallel passions of Isabel Merton, a renowned concert pianist, and Anzor Islikhanov, a Chechen political exile driven by a powerful desire to avenge his people, with whom she becomes involved. Anzor is a frankly unappealing character, whose interminable lectures are a reminder that terrorists make for uncomfortable dinner parties. “You think if you say a few nice things over dinner . . . that reprieves you from everything,” he tells a well-meaning American. Of more interest is Hoffman’s way of writing about music—a kind of blank verse, endowed with striking lyrical intensity. A description of Isabel’s performance of a Rachmaninoff Prelude notes “the build-up, the chords, ranged, arranged, like a cathedral, mountains, elements / larger than us, in excess of what we are.”
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Top Customer Reviews
So, I loved "Apassionata" even more than my favorite "Lost in Translation," and will confess utter confusion that more here didn't also love Eva Hoffman's masterpiece. I mean she gets it all about our times from the various places in Europe to the surfers in LA, from the politesse of the dinner parties to the concrete hatred of her lover--I feel like this is one of those great books that is either under-appreciated or else not read in the way it is meant.
Not liking my tone here, I just want to say how much language plays a part of my love for this and Hoffman's other books, for example, during her first pages her "Images skivvy through her mind.." or "Ahead, the aleatory sequence of the citiees"..."...maybe there is something hard about her life, in a late-capitalist way." "Bourgeois heroism... the acrobatics of being...
Isabel's life as a traveling pianist how Eva Hoffman so gets the interiority of performance, that delight, and the aftermath: "She's beginning to feel a familiar desolation comng on, the arid ghost of the performance. She has been in plenitude and has been rapidly ejected... her descent from intoxication." I do not know why but all of Isabel's experience as a performer and as a lover and as someone so profoundly betrayed, all spoke to my soul and thank god for Peter, to whom I always felt she would come home.
Thank you, Eva Hoffman for this masterpiece. May many know the joys herein.