Cover image for Piano : a novel
Piano : a novel
Echenoz, Jean.
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Uniform Title:
Au piano. English
Publication Information:
New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, [2004]

Physical Description:
179 pages ; 20 cm
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Max Delmarc, age fifty, is a famous concert pianist with two problems: the first is a paralyzing stage fright for which the second, alcohol, is the only treatment. In this unparalleled comedy from the Prix Goncourt-winning French novelist Jean Echenoz, we journey with Max, from the trials of his everyday life, through his untimely death, and on into the afterlife.

After a brief stay in purgatory--part luxury hotel, part minimum security prison, under the supervision of deceased celebrities--Max is cast into an alarmingly familiar partition of hell, "the urban zone," a dark and cloudy city much like his native Paris on an eternally bad day. Unable to play his beloved piano or stomach his needed drink, Max engages in a hapless struggle to piece his former life back together while searching in vain for the woman he once loved.

An acclaimed bestseller with 50,000 copies sold in France, Piano is a sly, sardonic evocation of Dante and Sartre for the present day, the playful, daring masterpiece of a novelist at the top of his form.

Author Notes

Jean Echenoz won France's prestigious Prix Goncourt for I'm Gone (The New Press). He is the author of nine other novels in English translation--including 1914 , Big Blondes , Lightning , Piano , Ravel , and Running , all published by The New Press--and the winner of numerous literary prizes, among them the Prix M#65533;dicis and the European Literature Jeopardy Prize. He lives in Paris.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Goncourt-winner Echenoz offers a cheeky take on the dubious pleasures of the afterlife in this slim, sly novel, which tracks the adventures of a musician after he dies. Max Delmarc is a talented Paris concert pianist burdened by a terrible case of stage fright, unrequited love for a vanished woman named Rose and a weakness for the bottle. On the way home from a benefit concert, Delmarc is mugged and stabbed; he wakes in an afterlife "Orientation Center," part hospital, part hotel, part jail. In his weeklong stay, he gets plastic surgery to repair his stab wound; enjoys a romantic interlude with Doris Day, a nurse at the facility; and is then assigned to "the urban zone"-"I mean, to Paris, you understand," he's told. There's a brief side trip to South America, but soon Delmarc is back in the City of Lights, under orders not to contact anyone from his former life or play music. Delmarc quickly violates both rules by leaving his job as a hotel bartender to take a position as a lounge pianist in a more upscale hotel and by embarking on a search for Rose, whom he saw as the love of his life despite his inability to connect with her. Echenoz's satiric style makes the somewhat limited afterlife concept work, and he includes some surprisingly effective plot twists. The result is a quirky, slight novel that offers an original take on human potential and folly. Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Apr. 15) Forecast: Though sales may be modest in hardcover, Polizzotti's fluid translation of a book the Times Literary Supplement called Echenoz's best work to date should help give it backlist staying power. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved