Spanish Bow

The Spanish Bow

by Andromeda Romano-Lax

An audio file of this program is available in mp3 format; click to listen.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax.

So here’s a question: what is art for? Is it to be pretty? To be the right size shape and color to fit over your couch? Is it to inform, entertain, enrage? And where does the artist’s responsibility begin and end — in other words, do you, a musician at the height of your creative power, play a concerto for Hitler?

These may sound like ivory tower, head-in-the-clouds questions, but it’s funny how fast art and politics collide when there’s trouble. (I can prove it in two words: Dixie Chicks.)

In her novel The Spanish Bow, Ms. Romano-Lax follows the careers and lives of three very different and very talented musicians: our unlikely hero Feliu, who is passionate about his cello and accepts the fact that he’s a bit of a dry stick when he’s not making exquisite music; his frenemy the jovial, apolitical pianist, Justo; and the doomed Jewish violinist Aviva whom they both (in their own dysfunctional way) love. (Beautiful Jewish artist? Living in Germany in the 30’s? Oh, this can’t end well.)

Born in a dusty corner of Spain at the end of the 19th century, Feliu rises from poverty to fame, and from not noticing the world changing around him to having to make decisions like: do you get on stage and play your music (which is surely only ever a good thing) for men who are surely only ever evil?

Recommended listening: Joshua Bell: Romance of the Violin, track 4, “The Swan” (Saint-Saens).

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