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Wunderkind: A Novel Paperback – June 12, 2012
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--Lauren Belfer, bestselling author of "City of Light" and "A Fierce Radiance"
"Grozni's writing is colorful and strong."
""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"
"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"
"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 "
"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."
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just getting started reading it. Will check back in later. Well written thus far. Hard to believe the author
wrote it in English and English is not his native tongue.
The setting is the Sofia Music school for the Gifted. Before the Communists arrived, the school building was a faunctioning Catholic monastery. Read morePublished on September 6, 2012 by Mary E. Sibley
Wunderkind seemed only very loosely fictional. The author, Nikolai Grozni, grew up as a piano wunderkind, and as you read his novel, you can almost feel his personal experience. Read morePublished on January 10, 2012 by L. King
For some reason, I went into "Wunderkind" thinking it would be a dark comedy. However, I'm glad I made that mistake, because otherwise I might not have chosen to read this... Read morePublished on January 4, 2012 by Ellen W.
This is a sad and dark look at a 15 yo boy, Konstantin growing up in the late 1980's in the Communist ruled Sofia, Bulgaria. Konstantin is a gifted pianist. Read morePublished on October 25, 2011 by bookmagic
With all the reviews already written, I assume all of you have a fair Idea about what this book is about, its strengths (Groznis writing about music) and its weaknesses in plot and... Read morePublished on October 25, 2011 by Dr. J. J. Kregarman
First off, may I get a complaint out of the way? The blurb for the book describes Konstantine as a Russian "Holden Caufield".... Read morePublished on October 20, 2011 by Meg Sumner
Count me with those readers who found this too slow moving, too dark, and too musical, as well as my apparently unusual complaint: too lurid. Read morePublished on October 16, 2011 by Unity Dienes
Perhaps it is not fair that I review this book, as classical music has been integral part of my life since I was four or five. Read morePublished on October 13, 2011 by I. Martinez-Ybor