Jean Echenoz is a contemporary French novelist of note. His work has received at least 10 literary awards, the most notable is the Prix Goncourt for his 1999 I’m Gone, (I’m Off in the UK version.)
Published by New Press in 2003 Piano’s first person narrator tells the reader in the second paragraph that its protagonist, concert pianist Max Delamarc, is going to die a violent death in 22 days…after that reveal, things get more and more interesting. Many offbeat, tongue-in-cheek asides later, we think we know that the hero’s trajectory will always be in doubt…Echenoz masterfully frames quirky engaging characters and his scene detailing has a finely honed glittering edge that creates a vivid storyworld that makes you want to read on for the camera work alone. Mark Polizzatti’s English rendering is top notch, one loses any background idea that one is reading a translation-its that good.
To avoid any spoiler issues, I will leave off plot synopsis. Just to summarize that it is an urban death/afterlife comedy romp mostly set in Paris and has a lot of similarities to Stanley Elkin’s, The Living End.. With the tripartite structure of earth/ purgatory/ heaven?hell? with some wonderfully realized contemporary- popular culture ironies at play. Great ending and a candidate for a beach-readable though thought provoking contemporary novel