A biographical novel in the grand European literary tradition that spans multiple generations and three centuries of tumultuous Central European history, as witnessed by the Esterhazys, a leading Hungarian family. The Esterhazys, one of Europe's most prominent aristocratic families, are indelibly inscribed in the history of the Hapsburg Empire. ...Read MoreA biographical novel in the grand European literary tradition that spans multiple generations and three centuries of tumultuous Central European history, as witnessed by the Esterhazys, a leading Hungarian family. The Esterhazys, one of Europe's most prominent aristocratic families, are indelibly inscribed in the history of the Hapsburg Empire. Having gone through epic conquest, tragedy, triumph and near destruction, the Esterhazy family lore is rich, poignant, entertaining and awe-inspiring. 'Celestial Harmonies' is a national epic in the form of fiction, which Esterhazy writes by reinventing the traditional form of the dynastic saga. Beginning with short sections narrated in the first person, 'Celestial Harmonies' recounts legends, inventions and episodes that form a mosaic in which chronology is abandoned and only one prominent figure exists: 'My Father'. The character of 'My Father' is a Don Juan, a profligate, a tycoon and a scholar, a bishop, an architect, a madman and a tyrant, an envoy and a premier, a student of Helmholtz and the cat in Schrodinger's experiment. He stands for each and every family member, functioning as a mount for simply everything, a man as unlimited and inexhaustible as the power born by the book's fictional family. 'Celestial Harmonies' is a rich, dazzlingly original exploration of the emotional ties that bind men to their fathers, bonds that stand outside time, place and history. Old world glamour meets harsh post-war reality in a novel that touches on all aspects of life and philosophy relevant to us today - the nature of dictatorship, love, hate and family relationships, to meditations on betrayal, God and Christianity.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 2004-02-02 Splicing the fine-grained nostalgia of Nabokov's Speak, Memory with the anarchic spirit of Looney Toons, Esterhazy has created a vast anti-epic. The writer, whose family name holds a place in Hungarian history equivalent to that of the Churchills in British history, takes advantage of his genealogy by making numerous references to his many distinguished ancestors-the very title refers to a Haydn piece commissioned by one of the author's forefathers. Divided into two sections, the novel circles its mark with cunning and humor, lighting on strange outcroppings of family and national lore. The first section contains 371 "sentences," which are really micro to mid-range narratives, all of them about a "father," a term that constantly shifts in meaning: "It goes without saying. My father had many faces, one with a moustache, one with a double chin, one like a Cumanian, et cetera." Sometimes there is a direct reference to Esterhazy's real father ("My father lost all he had, not to mention the estates, the fish ponds, the forests stretching up to Mor, the houses, the palaces, the stocks and bonds..."); sometimes the father is mythological; sometimes he is extracted from another literary text. The novel's second section relates more conventionally the struggle of the Esterhazy family after 1945, when the Communists expropriated their property. Peter's father drinks, gets a job as an agricultural laborer and endures by withdrawing into an inner exile. The patient reader who perseveres through the sometimes knotty Magyar references and nods to writers like Witold Gombrowicz, James Joyce and Donald Barthelme will be rewarded with a sense of having submitted to an astonishing if exhausting outburst of creativity. This is a belated 20th-century masterpiece. (Mar. 12) Forecast: With a little luck, Esterhazy's novel might find the same kind of success as Peter N das's Book of Memories (1997), another big book from a modern-day Eastern European master. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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