Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Issue: August 1, 2010
Ervin, Andrew (Author)
Sep 2010. 192 p. Coffee House, paperback, $14.95. (9781566892469).
Three disparate lives—of an aging, internationally renowned composer; an African American GI; and a young American violinist—intersect in contemporary Budapest in Ervin’s first novel. Lajos Harkályi returns for the first time to his native city to attend the world premiere of his new opera with his niece, Magda, a translator at a nearby U.S. Army base; PFC “Brutus” Gibson is having an affair with Magda; and Melanie Scholes has a solo in Harkályi’s opera. But each person’s story has a darker side: Harkályi is reminded of being sent to the Terezen concentration camp as a youth and narrowly escaping death, Gibson is blackmailed by his sadistic commanding officer and attacked by skinheads in the city where his race makes him stand out, and Scholes is an expat adrift in a personal relationship. Ervin’s prose style seems to fit his protagonists, becoming more elegant for Harkályi, angrier and more combative for Gibson, and more diffident for Scholes until the climax, as the theme of “Strange Fruit” grows stronger. A thoughtprovoking exploration of tyranny, freedom, and the power of music. — Michele Leber