Thursday, 5 July 2012

Raphaël Jerusalmy: SAUVER MOZART

March 2012, 160 pages

            Germany, 1939. The story of an old man’s last act of heroism: a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, but a successful gesture to save Mozart’s music.
As the rise of Nazism is in full swing, Otto J. Steiner, a stubborn old music critic from Salzburg, is spending his last days cloistered in a crumbling sanatorium. He keeps a diary, in which he describes both his daily routine and his occasional adventures. Asked to program the city’s music festival, he winds up attending the infamous meeting between Hitler and Mussolini. He poisons the coffee that is served to the two men, but his attempted assassination fails miserably. So he decides that the least he can do is to save Mozart, whose music is being damaged by the Nazis’ over-emphatic playing. When the day of the music festival arrives, he manages to slip an interlude into the soloist’s sheet music: a violin solo by a well-known Jewish composer. The crowd of uniformed men cheers enthusiastically; Otto has won his bet. He has gotten a roomful of Nazis to applaud Jewish culture. While it may not mean much in the greater scheme of things, it was a brave thing for him to do.
Clever and appealing, this novel honors minor heroics, in a rhythmically poetical style. A delightfully exhilarating tale.
            Raphaël Jerusalmy, a graduate of the Ecole Normale Superieure and the Sorbonne, had a first career in the Israeli intelligence services, then switched to humanitarian and educational missions. He is now an old-book dealer in Tel Aviv. SAUVER MOZART is his first novel.