Conversations with Beethoven (NYRB Classics)
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An NYRB Classics Original
Deaf as he was, Beethoven had to be addressed in writing, and he was always accompanied by a notebook in which people could scribble questions and comments. Conversations with Beethoven, in a tour de force of fictional invention, tells the story of the last year of Beethoven’s life almost entirely through such notebook entries: Friends, family, students, doctors, and others attend to the volatile Maestro, whose sometimes unpredictable and often very loud replies we infer. A fully fleshed and often very funny portrait of Beethoven emerges. He struggles with his music and with his health; he argues with and insults just about everyone. Most of all, he worries about his wayward—and beloved—nephew Karl. A large cast of Dickensian characters surrounds the great composer at the center of this wonderfully engaging novel, which deepens in the end to make a memorable music of its own.
in the 1965 O. Henry Awards. Totempole (1965; available as an NYRB Classic) was followed by the novels A Haunted Woman (1968), Still Life (1975), and Rip Van Winkle (1980). At the time of his death, Friedman left behind the unpublished manuscript for Conversations with Beethoven. RICHARD HOWARD is the author of seventeen volumes of poetry and has published more than one hundred fifty translations from the French, including, for NYRB, Marc Fumaroli’s When the World Spoke French, Balzac’s Unknown
conjectural; your nephew expressed no such wish. Since he will not be discharged for several weeks it’s premature to fret. But I said that your nephew expressed no such wish, not even the wish to visit his mother. Why do you speak of your brother? May I read it? GNEIXENDORF, AUGUST 24, 1826 Dearest Brother, I am taking this opportunity to wish you the very best for tomorrow, your name day. During this trying time while Karl is in the hospital and the summer heat is still cooking Vienna
Haslinger presto! • • • Thank you, Ludwig, Gerhard will be overjoyed. From the moment that you mentioned the Clementi the boy has not stopped chattering about the book. Now he will have no further excuse to put off practicing. As to Czapka, I am afraid that his ruling will satisfy neither you nor your sister-in-law; indeed it makes your brother’s invitation seem all but providential. In brief, upon discharge from the hospital your nephew is ordered to spend the following fortnight outside of
the boy is to have a career, he must leave for Iglau at once—And you Ludwig, you must not be so indecisive; you must lay down the law to him—Fix a date for your departure and then stick by it! You simply must not permit Instead of finding the musts so distasteful, you would do better to chew the meat. Why do you smile? Will you not take seriously I don’t follow you—what in fact have you been waiting for? Indeed I haven’t! Nor will I ever catch them in flagrante delicto—Don’t be such an ass!
that you spent the night on • • • Great Maestro, please forgive the interruption, I did not mean • • • Please not be angry Mister Beethoven—he make me bring this. Great Maestro, I would ask you not to scold the housekeeper for bringing you this. Since, however, you ordered me out of the room I feel obliged to account for my behavior. I truly regret having startled you, but believe me I was not trying to spy on you, nor did I read a word of what you were writing. Hence I entreat you to see