A brilliant fool’s story of survival

Angel Wagenstein: Isaac’s Torah ISBN: 978-1-59051-245-6 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Isaac Blumenfeld survives two world wars, the Holocaust and Stalin’s camps mainly by acting like a fool. A grim and witty novel about a fate that stands for the fate of many Eastern European Jews, peppered with black humour and far-reaching theological and philosophical reflections. Superb story-telling – you will laugh and cry and hopefully think about the lessons of the past for the present and the future. For this is one of the leitmotivs of the novel: Becoming an accomplice to crime by looking away when populism has its way. מזל טוב to the Bulgarian author.

Dmitry Shostakovich has written a very impressive symphony named after the massacre in Babi Yar (Ukraine), one of the settings of Wagenstein’s novel:

Mass murder and a lesson in morality

Famous women – so much could be said

Brigitte Beier; Karina Schmit: Hier spielt die Musik. ISBN 978-2-932338-65-6. ⭐️⭐️ 20 portraits of female classical musicians, composers and conductors. A couple of interesting details I did not yet know about Patricia Kopatchinskaya, Sarah Willis and Sofia Gubaidulina, but other than that… expectably stereotypical answers to often uninspired interviewer questions and copy-pastes of what music critics have said already. Disappointing.

Baroque music performed by Hille Perl, expert viola da gamba player, will have to compensate for a disappointing book:

A meditation about what matters

Bach’s life through the eyes of his wife

Esther Meynell: La petite chronique d’Anna Magdalena Bach. ISBN 978-2-283-02556-7 (English title: The Little Chronicle Of Magdalena Bach) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A truly charming novel retracing Johann Sebastian Bach’s life through the eyes of his second wife  Anna Magdalena. The book was first published anonymously; the author Esther Meynell (1878-1955) was an English novelist. A fictional biography emphasing the adoration Anna Magdalena felt for her husband as well as her husband’s music and depicting life in a not-so-ordinary household in Leipzig in the 18th century.

One of my favourite Bach compositions are the Brandenburg Concerts:

Bach appeals to our sense of beauty.

The Judas brotherhood and the apocalypse

Eric Giacometti, Jacques Ravenne: Apocalypse. ISBN 978-2-266-19629-1 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ One more mystery the French police inspector Marcas, a free mason, has to solve. Multiple murders, a valuable drawing by Poussin, a bloodthirsty sect seeking to avenge Judas the traitor – simply brilliant!

Since the book is full of hints to Jesus’ death on the cross, I could think of no better music to set the atmosphere than Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s “Rosary Sonatas”:

Escape from daily life with the Mystery Sonatas

In the beginning was the word…


To all followers from my music blog – hello again! To all newcomers – welcome! Music and reading have always dominated my life. To a large extent, the music I enjoy and the books I read reflect what keeps my mind busy, they mirror my universe. Music had and still has an influence on literature and many a composer have been inspired by the poems, plays or novels they have read during their life.

Since my musical preferences are well documented on my music blog, I came up with the idea to present my reading list as it develops over time. This blog takes over a section from the music blog, so we do not start from scratch. Each book I have read will be presented in a separate post in a few sentences with a link to a post on music where appropriate. Books presented will be in German, English and French, the languages I command.  I will give each book a personal appreciation, rankings go from ⭐️ to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.  Enjoy. Be inspired.

My current lyrical travel fellows are:

Rainer Maria Rilke: Die Gedichte. ISBN 978-3-458-17333-5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I enjoy Rilke’s poems when I travel or when I can’t sleep. They are brimful with philosophical ideas and Romantic wisdom.

Heinrich Heine: Gesammelte Werke in zwei Bänden. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I enjoy Heine’s poems when I am too tired to read anything else. Or when I have no other good book at hand. I have read them all and now I read them again.

© Charles Thibo