Ravel: A Novel
The book opens in 1928 as Maurice Ravel—dandy, eccentric, curmudgeon—crosses the Atlantic abroad the luxury liner the SS France to begin his triumphant grand tour of the United States. A “master magician of the French novel” (The Washington Post), Echenoz captures the folly of the era as well as its genius, including Ravel’s personal life—sartorially and socially splendid—as well as his most successful compositions from 1927 to 1937.
Illuminated by flashes of Echenoz’s characteristically sly humor, Ravel is a delightfully quirky portrait of a famous musician coping with the ups and downs of his illustrious career. It is also a beautifully written novel that’s a deeply touching farewell to a dignified and lonely man going reluctantly into the night.
convinced him, that view over the valley discovered from the balcony: horizon almost rectilinear beneath changeable skies, long even waves of overlapping hills, foothills of grass and woods, punctiform clumps of trees, stretches of hedgerows. True, this small dwelling is itself stuffed with small things, miniatures of all kinds, statuettes and knickknacks, music boxes and windup toys: a wooden Chinaman sticks out his tongue on demand; a sailboat rocks over cardboard waves at your pleasure; a
is every morning, without even an inkling of what to wear, which increases his ill humor. He climbs the stairs of his small, complicated house: three stories, viewed from the garden, but only one is visible from the front. On the third floor, which is level with the street, he examines the latter from a hall window to estimate the number of layers enveloping passers-by, hoping to get some idea of what to put on. But it is much too early for the town of Montfort-l’Amaury. There is nobody and
left standing on the sidewalk. The surrealists look at one another. As for the expert, it’s a woman, Dr. Lotte Wolff. Her commentary has been preserved: He’s a complete idiot. Shortly afterward, taking advantage of the presence in Paris of the Galimir Quartet, the producer Canetti has proposed to Polydor that they record Ravel’s String Quartet. He lets the composer know that he would appreciate having him come supervise the recording sessions. Fine, says Ravel, all right. Once settled in the
also wrote ballets, including Beach, presented in 1933 by Leonide Massine, performed by the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo with décor by Raoul Dufy. Pierre-Octave Ferroud: A French composer and critic. Manuel Rosenthal: A pupil and friend of Ravel’s, a conductor and composer who became best known for his lighter pieces, such as the ballet Gaïté Parisienne, based on the work of Jacques Offenbach. He was the longest-surviving close associate of Ravel, of whom he noted that the composer’s most
Ravel in England, France, and Spain. His recorded performances of Ravel’s music are still highly prized. Renowned for his classical technique, he often performed with his wife, Gaby, and occasionally with both Gaby and their son, Jean. 20. Marcial Lalanda: The inventor of the mariposa, or “butterfly”: a series of passes made by the torero with the cape over his shoulders, facing the bull and drawing him on by waving alternate sides of the cape, imitating the flight of a butterfly. In Death in