Saving Mozart, by Raphael Jerusalmy. Published 2013 by Europa Editions.
is a short, epistolary novel made up of the journals and letters of
Otto Steiner, an elderly music critic slowing dying of tuberculosis in a
nursing home in Germany between 1939 and 1940. He is a non-practicing
Jew and lives in constant anxiety of being found out, but he has a lot
of other problems besides that, including deteriorating finances,
worsening living conditions, the death of friends and crumbling health.
The only thing that keeps him going is music- his records and
phonograph, his memories of music and his ability to participate in
public musical life.
His friend Hans is his link to the
outside world, and when the book opens Steiner is still able to attend
concerts and publish articles but over time he becomes more and more
isolated. His isolation is reflected conversely in his living
conditions; as he becomes more cut off financially and socially from the
outside world he transitions from a bed in a single room to one in a
shared ward. Introverts like Steiner can be alone in a room full of
people and most fully connected to themselves when by themselves.
all though Steiner loves music and the music of Mozart most of all. So
he is naturally very upset to learn that Mozart's music will be featured
at an annual concert that will also function as a propaganda
opportunity for the Nazis whom Steiner detests. And so he comes up with a
way to make a very public statement at this event, a statement which
may go undetected by the very people it was meant to show up, but not by
Saving Mozart is a quick read about a topic familiar to many readers but it is an original take on the subject at the same time. I
enjoyed the suspense as events lead up to the concert, and the suspense
over the changes in Otto's life and fate. It is a moving testimony to
an act of rebellion and the refusal of one person to be cowed by or
submit to cruelty and horror. Jerusalmy keeps us tottering on a
precipice. We know what could happen, what is happening in the
background. The musicians play not as Rome burns but as people do.
This is my first book for the 2014 Europa Challenge. I received the book for review from Europa Editions.