The Melody by Jim Crace review – the book blazes with anger


Book Title:
The melody


Jim crace


Indicative price:
£ 16.99

In the beginning The melody, the hypnotic and powerful twelfth book by Jim Crace, protagonist Alfred Busi – “Mister Al”, well known in his town for his music and songs – dines al fresco in a serene corner of the local botanical gardens. Busi is aging and feeling lonely, enduring “the loveless fallow times that have come with widowhood and age”: but he still lives in the seaside villa he shared with his beloved wife Alicia. And he remains healthy and vigorous: or had been, at least, until the night before, when an unknown assailant – a beast perhaps, or a starving child – attacked him in his house, tearing him apart fiercely. her skin, her flesh, her sense of security. Worse, as the creature fled, it tripped the set of Persian bells hanging from the pantry door. Until then, the sound of these bells meant peace, love, domestic harmony to Busi – but now their melody has been distorted, forever.

Now Busi is having lunch, and remembers Alicia, who also favored this place: “Eating in an open-air garden – their table almost always gleaned by finches and sparrows, even gulls and butterflies – never failed to eat. brighten it up. In fact, they were courting there, had first professed – confessed – their love.

The melody is a story of a break and enter, carried out in several ways: the flesh is opened with claws, and the shoes torn off with prostrate feet; self-respect is split in half and pulverized by unknown assailants. Busi’s keys are stolen and intruders break into his home; he glances through a real estate agent’s window to find that his house must be demolished at the instigation of his vile nephew, to make room for new apartments. But renewed love and friendship pervade Busi’s life as well, and his heart-wrenching loneliness is shattered by the hectic kindness of strangers: As the finches glean crumbs off his table, the book implies that we could all, in fact. , benefit from some degree of break-ins into our lives.

All of this is framed in a distinctly Craceous universe. The melody reads like a classic realist novel, with its omniscient narrator – indiscreet, engaging, abreast of local gossip – describing the beautiful town of Busi, its natural hinterland, its skyline of pinnacles and domes. But the real and the fantastic meet here and blend harmoniously: Busi and his friends sip unfamiliar drinks, unfamiliar trees grow in the forests, and the city itself is not on any map. As Crace noted, “create a new world […] is a liberation that I almost always look for in my novels for the license and the freedom that it allows. Anything can happen in the realm of the imagination. This genre-shifting effect is both bewitching and disconcerting – and it offers, moreover, a substantial rejection of the frequently remarked idea that the novel in general, and the English novel in particular, have less and less importance. offer to the modern world. reader.

Because this book urgently addresses contemporary concerns: the atomization of our societies and our creeping isolation; the relentless violation of our environment in the name of progress; and the extermination of other species, often before they can even be identified. Crace’s work belongs in part to the pastoral tradition of English writing: the hinterland of this nameless city, “a tangled, aromatic labyrinth, resistant to the salt of sea thorns, locust bean and pine. And the ‘Blinding Sea Cinema’ facing the house, are all described in loving and intensely vivid terms. But as the trees are felled, cleared brush and a grim bestiary of vagabonds – “savages” and “Neanderthals,” as they are casually labeled by authorities – swept the town, causing the book to flare up in anger. Impossible not to remember the round-ups undertaken in our all too real world against migrants and the ostensibly undignified poor, in the name of order, civilization and decency.

Sometimes, The melody evokes a fairy tale: Busi and his friends go to the forest in a way that is reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel, not knowing if they will ever find a way through the trees. But ultimately, this book is a libation, offered to the natural world as a sign of repentance and shame. Because Busi is not looking for a trail of crumbs: on the contrary, he himself offers food to the forest and its homeless inhabitants, and in doing so, may find his way home. The melody is a reminder that we neither own nor control the natural world – and also a reminder that this world will eventually gain ground.


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