Una Musica Constante

ISBN: 8495971046
ISBN 13: 9788495971043
By: Vikram Seth

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Reader's Thoughts

Spike Gomes

A violinist in a string quartet meets up again with his first love by chance; finding her married with a child, they engage in a brief doomed affair, tinged by loss, not only of love, but of sound.This book, while not as great as "A Suitable Boy" was still engrossing and enchanting, particularly the passages dealing with the playing of music; the only other novel I've ever read which gets that feeling right was Hesse's "The Glass Bead Game", namely the feeling of frustration, tension and false starts, then union and transcendence. The act of playing music is extraordinarily hard to convey in words, but Seth has done it, and the book could be judged readable by that alone.As for the love story, compared to "A Suitable Boy", it's a bit more low key, but still perhaps too melodramatic. A bit too Indian, not British enough. Still, by the end, carried by the lyrical prose that more than adequately captures the disjointed feeling of loss, depression and creative bloc, the reader captures a bit of redemption, not a happy resolution of problems, but instead an embrace of the notion that music goes beyond love and loss and into something else entirely. In that, the ending asks and answers the same question posed by the movie "All the Mornings in the World" namely "Why do we play music?". It cannot be answered in words, but only in the sound and the silence that follows. 4.5 out of 5 stars


A beautifully crafted novel about love and loss set to a classical music score. While I was reading the words, I was hearing music, which seems to me to be quite a significant literary achievement. Music is almost a character in this novel. Some of the technical aspects went way over my head, but for a musician would probably add a whole extra layer of meaning.


This wonderful novel certainly lives up to the enthusiastic reviews printed on its cover! "The finest novel about music ever written in English ..." (Daily Telegraph review) and "...It is a novel of wonderful high spirits and vitality, a true enchantment. All those who delighted in A Suitable Boy will find delight here too" (Scotsman). I thoroughly enjoyed every page.


Sometimes one wonders what makes music give such pleasure and it doesn't matter that there's no clear answer. This book hints at some answers without giving reasons, it conveys them in the shape of sensations, the relation music enhances between oneself and one's solitude, the desire to be with others through conventions that are to be created and varied rather than struggled against. It's a beautiful book of great sensibility and to be read whilst listening to the music it plays.


When I first met Vikram Seth and later heard him speak at the Hay Festival in Trivandrum two years ago, I knew I would appreciate his written word as much as I was enthralled by the spoken ones. Having randomly chosen to read his work, ‘An Equal Music’, from the rest of the more famous lot, I find myself not just appreciative, but moved beyond words at the sheer beauty of the finely crafted story of music, love and loss.Set mainly in London and Vienna, among the musical legacy of Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Haydn, ‘An Equal Music’ is essentially the story of a man and a woman in love. It goes a step further by also being the stories of musicians – in quartets and in solitude, in success and in disillusionment. Our man and woman are all of these- lost and found and lost again to their passionate loves and passion for music.In fact so finely balanced is Vikram Seth’s prose on the technicalities and moods of various musical genres and instruments that the entire book feels like a melody played out in a place like paradise! The reader grows with the characters as they sweep across phases of deep distraught and longing; and rejoices when solitary hearts are united to love that blooms the fullest. And then the subtle touch of human vices, nervous breakdowns and hidden secrets that add flair to the plot....For the full review, visit IndiaBookStore.

Arun Divakar

I would like you to imagine a beautifully carved vessel. By a vessel, I do not mean the seafaring kind but one that can hold something in it. Your vessel is an object of craftsmanship. When you glance at it, you see the evidence of all that is great about hand carved elegance. Walking around the vessel you come across the world's finest carvings built into it. Examples abound ranging from Victorian to Chinese, Indian to Italian. You can't take your eyes off it but still something nags at the back of your mind about this whole object. You keep looking but it is flawless at first look. Then you look at the most important part of the vessel : inside. What has been troubling you all this while hits you then for the vessel doesn't have a bottom. It is just a shell and serves no other purpose ! This is the closest I can approximate to how this book made me feel.It talks of a love story between Michael and Julia, both of them musicians whose affair begins in Vienna. The story then goes through the pangs of love and loss and how broken hearts are mended. The descriptions of London, Venice and Vienna are breathtaking and quite brilliantly etched. But when it comes to storytelling, this book fails big time. Within the first half of the book, I quite realised that this tale will be a waste of time. After a point, whenever the narrative of the tale came up I felt like I was reading someone's grocery list ! The love story lacks life, coherence and a soul. It is a damp squib.Read it if you want a poetic description of a few major cities of Europe. Beyond it, it's just lifeless words in here. To sum up, it wouldn't hurt much to give this one a miss.

Mahendra Palsule

** spoiler alert ** Music, such music, is a sufficient gift. Why ask for happiness; why hope not to grieve? It is enough, it is to be blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music - not too much, or the soul could not sustain it - from time to time.PlotAn Equal Music is narrated by Michael Holme, a second violinist in a Quartet based in London. It is a nicely woven braid of his love of music and his love of Julia, with whom he studied music in Vienna. He has lost her when he ran away from Vienna to escape his autocratic mentor. The story is about his tenuous reunion with Julia, who is married with a family of her own, and about Michael and his Quartet's struggle in the European classical circuit. His past haunts Michael to such an extent that the story progresses as if walking forward while continuing to look backward.MusicThe strongest element of the book. It acted like a glue holding the story and characters together, and my interest till the end. Seth indulges in the works of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Haydn, offering a unique glimpse into the world of chamber music. The interpersonal dynamics of the Quartet that influence their performance. Their approach and method of rehearsing. The commerce of instruments. The business of a Quartet.Throughout, I enjoyed the intimacy with music and identified with the characters. The almost sub-conscious habit of thinking of the great composers as if they were living acquaintances. The fascination and romanticizing of specific works. Michael has a less laborious pursuit to obtain a rare Beethoven Quintet than I did in search of a Mozart Divertimento.CharacterizationThe weakest aspect of the book is the shallow character development. Michael is so strongly influenced by his past that his nostalgia, his obsessive brooding, make you realize that he will never shape his future. Why exactly does he leave Vienna abruptly? He comes across as a nervous wreck and in other matters, incredibly stupid. He needs a 101 on relationships, finance, and professional networking skills. He loves deeply, but I could not empathize with his love for Julia.Other than her ability to play well, why is she so lovable? Why does she suddenly sleep with him again? What influences her decisions as she deals with the conflict between a family life and an extra-marital affair?Zone of SilenceJulia's progressive deafness may be considered as a hackneyed plot device by some readers, but Seth handles this challenge extraordinarily well. He engages us in the 'zones of intersection of the world of soundlessness with those of the heard, misheard, and of imagined sound'. Recollections of "Immortal Beloved" are but natural.Recommended ForI doubt if musically uninitiated readers would enjoy this book. If you're not amused by likening three tall and one short persons in a group to Beethoven's Fifth, you will miss the most enamoring aspect of the book: the profound love of music that permeates throughout. Seth lives and breathes music.

Rachel Stern

I was surprised by how much i loved this book. It's blow off your travelling companions and curl up in your youth hostel until you finish it good. It's finish it and then wish you hadn't so you could read it again for the first time good. The tension in the love story is addictive. But what I loved most was the way Seth writes about music. the way he integrates music into the lives of the characters (all professional musicians) is more than convincing, it's intoxicating.


By contrast with the overly-long mega-epic A Suitable Boy, An Equal Music is the equivalent of a Prelude in comparison to a Concert - just long enough to tell the story, not hindered by multiple side-plots and non-essential characters, and not trying to be big and sweeping. It's a romantic, nostalgic, bitter little tale of lost love, missed chances, and what might have beens, as two musicians once deeply in love stumble across one another's path again years later, only to find that things have changed irrevocably between them. It is only going to appeal to a certain segment of the population -- if you are a lover of simple, elegant, romantic prose, a classical music lover, if you love sad, unfulfilled love stories, or if you, yourself, have lived through such a relationship, then the book may well be compelling, but if not it's probably not going to satisfy you at all. Steer clear if you are after any sort of action, mystery, thrills, chills, suspense, or anything beyond a romantic little story of lost love and missed chances. readable in an afternoon.


The smell of rosin on a bow, the satisfaction of slow scales played with a partner, the sleepy somnolence of working a piece through in your head just before sleep - I miss these things. I forget them too. Vikram Seth lent them back to me this week. I’ve read An Equal Music before, quickly. This read, with bed rest time to spin through, I read it page by page, at half tempo. It was delicious. Seth recreates the world of a violinist in a string quartet, bringing in the human element of chamber music, and, more bravely, the music. Music is frustratingly difficult to write about - what seems glorious to experience becomes trite on a page, or simply does not show up. But Seth does it well, mixing chewably real details with tone poem text to help you hear the music.


Dive into the heart and mind of a obsessive, melancoly, melodramatic violinist who can't let go of the love of his life, a person who he had ditched out on. But seriously, this is a beautifully written book about love and music and loving music. I am not a professional musician, I played piano when I was young, but not that well, and to the reviews I've seen that found classical music oriented parts of the book to difficult or too obscure or too distracting, so as to be suitable only for those with expert knowledge of classical music, well I say "Nonsense!" That's the point, you get a look at a *different* world and you learn something about it -- bonus time! The love story is tricky and interesting, though a bit of a downer. Don't be looking for a happy ending. Vikram asks whether you can recapture the past and it looks like the answer is no.This book was very psychological, first person, every detail about what is going on with the main character/narator. What I liked even more than the music and the psychology and the tricky love story was the depiction of life in an ensemble. Wow, you think romantic relationships are hard? Check out what goes on in the string quartetI liked this book a lot; I liked The Golden Gate even more. This guy can write fabulous engrossing books that make you want to stay up all night reading them.

Sarah Milne

There are things I loved about this book and things I did not love, but the bottom line is that after finishing it I sat for 15 minutes and just pondered it. That's good. I have read a few reviews stating a disdain for the narrator - he's whinny, he's selfish, he's annoying. Yes, those things are true enough. But I like that Seth didn't make a heroic main character. The fact is that a person going through a failed love affair generally tends to be those things. Argue with that all you wish! I feel that the resolution - which I imagine some probably feel could have been clearer - was that music was enough for him. I like that. I wish he had gone on for a few paragraphs more (at least), but perhaps the strength here is that it leaves the reader to continue pondering. This may be a book geared more for those who also share a deep love for music - I'm not sure how it would go over for anyone less invested in it. But who knows! Beautifully written, and it says just enough without giving away too much. A lovely read.


Me thinks one needs to be a professional musician to appreciate this book to the fullest.The review says this is a story about the love of a woman lost and found and lost again. I found it to be an obsessive and maybe a bit sick kind of love that suffocates and strangles its intended. It is also about 2 musicians and the life of professional performers, one a violinist and the other a pianist. I gave it 2 stars because it was o.k. I thought the main character, the violinist, to be annoying in his persistance with the love of his life, who, by the way was married and has a child. She kept telling him to stop contacting her and to leave her alone. He couldn't do it. So, really, it was sad to see him suffer, to know that what he wanted to badly was another mans wife.Maybe I should give it 3 stars. I did like it o.k., I admit I did some speed reading over the technical language of the music.

Graham Crawford

What an intricate and delicate study of the connections between a group of people! I don't know why I didn't read this years ago! One of the advantages of coming to this book late is that now, via the wonders of the internet, it is easy to track down recordings and scores of all the music mentioned in this book - I was able to listen to all the pieces as I read about them on the page - a truly sublime multi-media experience, though not one for the faint-hearted as I often found myself getting to emotional to read on.Some reviewers who don't have an appreciation of classical music, have found this book elusive. My background as a harpist and familiarity with performance culture and the classical repertoire certainly helped with reading this - The book's structure and it's many themes are drawn from musical theory. Thankfully these analogies are are mostly subtle allusions, for example the overall structure of the Fugue is not traced in full, else the metaphor could be too heavy handed. The lead-ins of the parts are sketched in by non linear flash-backs (we get the second time in Vienna, but only a memory of the first), and the lead-out variations of the themes, such as the loss of a partner (both human and violin), and the hope for renewal, are not completely tied up at the end, but we know enough about the structure to envisage a finale.I particularly enjoyed the scenes about changing the instrument's tuning in order to play the new piece - how one person's obsession slowly ripples out into the group, forcing even their bodies (instruments) to adjust to the new (social) environment. There was a lot of humor in this section - about the interactions with the "early music" people - which showed just how cliquey the classical music group is. I'm not sure a reader from outside this close musical bubble would have picked these themes up.Essentially the genius of this book was Seth's choice to use the musicians in a quartet to describe human relationships, because they already have a language and an established culture that has specifically evolved to describe the mathematics of this in the most nuanced way possible. The downside of this book is that the actually relationships described are rather everyday. In many ways this is a study of a rather tawdry romantic affair, and though this book does describe its subject in exquisite technical detail, at the end of the day, it's hardly an operatic affair.Towards the end, I was feeling rather uncomfortable as the purple prose and the protagonist were seriously losing the plot. I wasn't entirely sure if this narrative voice was meant to be unreliable - thankfully Seth dropped in a structural clue - the offhand amendments to Wordsworth's "Sky-lark" " O stodgy git ... O gushy twit ... Ah, now that, now that is it." I wanted to slap the protagonist during the "O gushy twit" section! Love really does make fools of us all.


A beautifully written book about an English violinist and his life in a quartet and really the difficult life of a person who is a talented musician. This book made me think about music and talented musicians and their trials in a whole new light. Reconfirmed my belief that sometimes love is not enough in life to sustain people long term. This book gives great insight and sound to the world of music - the passion and the pain. Loved it Top 10!

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