I bought this little book of just about 100 pages at a bookshop that was to be closed down. There was another small book by André Brink, so I bought that one as well. I dutifully put them on my shelf next to other books by this South African writer.  A few months later I decided to read this one. Very soon afterwards I read that the writer had just passed away.

The other thing I discovered was that this book was the third one in a trilogy. The other book I had bought was the second one.  So now I am reading backwards.

Appassionata is a musical expression with the meaning ‘impassioned’ or ‘in an impassioned way’. One of the pieces composed by the German composer Ludwig von Beethoven was his Pianosonate nr. 23 in f; later on this piece was named, not by the composer himself, “Appassionata”.

The chapters in this book are titled with terms form classical music, not very surprising since the protagonist (Derek Hugo) is a a man who wanted very much to be a famous pianoplayer. He is a pianoplayer, but not a very famous one. His attention and devotion is divided. He explores the circles of music and love and composers and players.

One evening, during the break of a concert at which he plays Appasionata, he is introduced to a famous singer, Nina Rousseau. In her own way she explores the circles of love and music, a few men who worked with her lost their life. 

Derek and Nina decide to strike up a musical bond. They will give a concert. They spend many hours in rehearsels. Derek devotes his attention to his piano, but at the same time he devotes himself to that other circle of love. He is not even completely devoted to the preparations for the concert, for on the side he gives pianoclasses to children (and a mother at the background).

When Derek and Nina are at a restaurant the place is robbed. This is a shock to both of them. Nina wants to stop the preparations for the concert, Derek wants to continue. Nina invites him to her old family farm where they can explore the possibilities of the concert.

Derek longs for Nina, but she want to devote her life to her voice and her career. She does not want to divide her devotion. At the lonely farm Nina regains her voice, with more depth. Derek is divided in his devotion.

One night he ends up with a rope around his neck. What happened? Was he strangled, by Nina? Is he caught in the web of love? He wanted to live in a passionate way, but where did it end? He is left breathless and emptyhanded. 

Who is devoted and passionate about what? Is it possible to be devoted to just one thing in life?

André Brink – Appasionata – 2008

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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