Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre

Published 15th June 2017 / ISBN 978-0-9930093-2-7 / 160 pp / 180 x 120 / paperback / RRP: GBP 10.99 The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. Yet music is shown to continue to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures. This book is supported by the French Institute (UK) as part of the Burgess programme, and is the recipient of a translation grant by the Centre National du Livre (CNL).

Blue Self-Portrait  by   Lefebrve

French fiction

Original title  – L’autoportrait bleu

Translator – Sophie Lewis

Source – review copy

I move a step closer to 100 books from France . With another intriguing novel from the new publisher Les Fugitives, who are trying to bring the brightest female French voice to us in English. Today we have  Noémi Lefebrve A writer who studied Music and Fench and German identity. She then became a political scientist. She has published three books since then. This is her first book to be translated into English.

Nonetheless, he hung the Blue Self-Portrait in the here and now of the Brandenburgian countryside, as if this was the only thing to do at this precise moment: bring together the living memory of Schoenberg as captured in the painting and the deathly precence of Brandenburg nature, conversely bring together still and temporary life with the natural memoryof Schoenberg captured in paint .

The description of Schoenberg famous self portrait in Blue.

I liked the first book I read from Les Fugitives Translation as Transhumance. Blue self -portrait is an internal monologue of a female, as she visits Berlin. What unfolds is an internal trip around the Cultural highlights of Berlin. Told from this woman. This is mixed with her haunting views about the works of Schoenberg. The title derives from the title of his Self-portrait in Blue that haunts her. She is getting over a failed romantic encounter with American German pianist that played was known for the way he could interpret  Schoenberg. She has also been reading Theodor W Adorno is someone, she has been reading. This, of course, this links also to Schoenberg as he played him as a trained pianist. He is also one of the leading lights in the Frankfurt school of philosophy. A female worrying about her place in the world. Her troubles with men and also her future. whilst wandering around the places to be in Berlin.A journey to the heart of a soul from her thoughts.

After reading Schoenberg’s letter to the Reich’ culture minister, the pianist had gone back to the Blue self portrait intending to examine the portrait’s blue, had registered the blue’s chill negativity, had taken a few steps back because of the negativity, this reflex which was unfolding a scene at once musical, Nazi and fashionable.

A pianst tries to enter his mind using the pic and How schoenberg went to the US to escape the Nazi’s

This is a trip with one mind through one city. Like Walter Benjamin’s trip through the arcades of Paris. We see places, culture and characters. That are all interlink in the thoughts of one woman as she tries to work out her life. The prose has a flow similar to that of a writer like Thomas Bernhard or Proust like the later she is recounting her romantic failures at times.This is a sort of anti-sex and the city for the modern girl it is more what not to do its as if Lena Dunham had written sex and the city. The theme of loss is a recurring motif in the book,  from the repetitive views of Cow that has lost his calf, to her own lost love and lost chances in a way.  This in a way is the opposite of the short film  Torsion which saw a cow giving birth as a choir escaped war-torn Sarajevo. There is a feeling of loss within this novel of being blue not just like Arnold Schoenberg in his picture, but also Blue inside ourselves is maybe a disease of the modern age. Schoenberg liked islands and maybe this proves we are all islands drifting in the deep blue sea of life as we try to moor with one another. A wry look at the modern female world y an up and coming writer.


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  1. Trackback: Man Booker international 2018 what will be there? | Winstonsdad's Blog

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