In a totalitarian state that alternately praises and persecutes artists, Elena, the flute-player, keeps alive the creative spirit of the artists who are her friends, offering herself sexually and emotionally to all....
|Title||:||The Flute Player|
|Number of Pages||:||160 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Flute Player Reviews
"She Could Not Place It"This novel was a rewarding, if sometimes puzzling, experience.The blurb speculates that it might be set in Leningrad, which is mostly true. Some of the early parts are set in pre-revolutionary St Petersburg (a different name for the same city), while others (post-1914) are set in Petrograd, before the post-1924 change of name to Leningrad. More importantly, some of the chapters towards the end of the book involving the Soviet poet Marion (possibly inspired by the real poet Marina Tsvetaeva, one of four Russian artists to whom the novel is dedicated) seem to be set in post World War II Berlin (for there is talk of the Wall):"There was a tune going round in her head and she was annoyed because she could not place it."None of the city names are mentioned in the novel itself. We have to infer these locations from oblique geographical or architectural references in the text. Indeed, there is much in the novel that is oblique or lacking in precision. It’s not important that the reader know exactly where we are. We could be in either the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. What these places have in common is the fact that they were, at the time of the fictional events, totalitarian states.The Evil of BanalityThis is a work of the imagination that endeavours to capture the banal, if not exactly pedestrian, experience of everyday life in a totalitarian state (whether or not it was at war, which it usually was). It bears resemblances to William T Vollmann’s "Europe Central" (though less concerned about the machinations of the actual war), Mikhail Bulgakov’s "The Master and Margarita" (though more downbeat in mood), Anna Kavan’s "Ice", and Christopher Isherwood’s "The Berlin Stories" (upon which the film "Cabaret" was based).I say "banal", because there is little concern with action of any description, more the feelings that each of the characters has in and for their immediate surroundings. There is only the barest of plots, without which the novel lacks dynamism, even if it could be argued that the work as a whole is some kind of post-modernist experiment (which I question, because the tone is almost universally that of realism). For all the sexual activity, the novel still leaves much to be desired (by the reader, at least):"The hugs, the kisses, the exclamations of wonder, can be imagined."Art and Artists under TotalitarianismOnce again, the blurb suggests that "totalitarianism attempts to destroy art". Whether or not the attempt is deliberate, this is the effect of totalitarianism. Even those artists who are embraced by the state suffer at its hands. Its love is a demanding and tough love that compromises the integrity of the artist. On the other hand, it persecutes those who are not in favour. They’re censored, jailed or sent to labor camps for re-education, or concentration camps for extermination.Artists carry their own art as well as traces of civilisation and culture as a whole. In a way, they protect and preserve it against repression by the state and suppression by society.The main character is Elena, who isn't overtly artistic, although she takes on small roles in theatre, musicals, cabarets, bars and brothels to make ends meet and survive against wartime deprivations. She's also forced to work as a prostitute on the street, an opportunity which she accepts with equanimity.Elena supports, subsidises and sustains various artists, including the poet Michael (who is Marion’s brother) and the painter Peter. Not only is she Michael’s muse, but she memorises his verse, so that it doesn’t have to be printed, and can’t be discovered and destroyed by the authorities. Learnt by HeartEverything she knows About life and art, She has learnt by heart.The Flute-PlayerIt’s Elena who becomes the flute-player of the title. She only rediscovers this childhood skill in the last five pages of the novel, when she resumes playing, to improve her prospects of becoming a teacher and educating infants. For all her trials and tribulations, the reader is relieved that this selfless woman has survived to tell not just her own tale, but those of other victims of totalitarianism as well.Poem Without a Hero [Excerpt]By Anna AkhmatovaIt’s banal to say.I’ll leave it to others to explain...For one moment of peaceI would give the peace of the tomb.
The first novel by a poet and writer who blazed to fame (or infamy) in the 1980s and then gradually became less and less fashionable until he’s now somewhat forgotten. *The Flute-Player* tells the story of Elena in a nameless city that is located in a repressive country that is an analogue of the Soviet Union under the regime of Stalin. The title of the book is somewhat misleading: Elena doesn’t learn to play the flute until almost the last chapter, but this is a very minor quibble. The writing is lyrical but clear, muscular yet sensitive, and the story ultimately is uplifting, despite the harrowing ordeals that Elena are her friends are forced to endure.
I got about 100 pages in before I quit in disgust. What an awful book.ETA: Okay, some elaboration. This book was relentless. I wept for Elena. There was not a shred of hope or light in this book. It felt like the author was exploiting this poor fictional woman and causing her pain to make a point. Ultimately, it felt misogynistic to me.
Read this in university in the 80s and was reminded of it recently by a book I've been reading in translation ... So I'm going to have to go back to it again and see what I make of it 30 years on. At the time it was a book I didn't particularly care for - and yet tiny details have lodged somewhere and resurface.
A troubling journey through an alternate Russia that isn't quite Russia as artists try to bring meaning to their lives living under a totalitarian regime. Lots of sex.