Orfeo: A Novel by Richard Powers

By Richard Powers

Guy Booker Prize Nominee for Longlist (2014). nationwide publication Award Nominee for Fiction (2014)

In Orfeo, Powers tells the tale of a guy visiting into his earlier as he desperately flees the current. Composer Peter Els opens the door one night to discover the police on his doorstep. His domestic microbiology lab—the most recent test in his lifelong try and locate track in magnificent patterns—has aroused the suspicions of fatherland safety. Panicked by way of the raid, Els turns fugitive. As an Internet-fueled hysteria erupts, Els—the "Bioterrorist Bach"—pays a last stopover at to the folks he loves, those that formed his musical trip. throughout the aid of his ex-wife, his daughter, and his longtime collaborator, Els hatches a plan to show this disastrous collision with the protection country right into a murals that might reawaken its viewers to the sounds throughout them.

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Example text

By the time Peter first heard Mahler’s songs, his own childhood had long since died. It ended with his father’s heart attack, the raft uprising. For a long time, nothing softened Peter’s guilt about that day more than listening to the best of his father’s records: the Jupiter, the Eroica, the Unfinished. Once or twice, the music reopened that purer world, just alongside his own. Then his mother got rid of all his father’s records, all his clothes, every possession that gave memory any power over the present.

He loves his music lessons best. Week by month by year, the clarinet yields to him. The études his teachers assign unlock ever more elaborate and enchanted places. He seems to be something of a native speaker. It’s a gift, his mother says. A talent, his father corrects. His father, too, is obsessed with music, or at least with ever-higher fidelity. Every few months, Karl Els invests in clearer, finer, more powerful components until the speakers cabled to his vacuum tube stereo amp are bigger than a migrant worker’s bungalow.

My spirit’s impulse just happened to be criminal. Els brushes off the dirt, goes inside, and looks for something to play for his dog’s funeral. He lands on Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder: five songs lasting twenty-five minutes. Fidelio used to go nuts with the cycle, back in her puppyhood. At the very first measures of the first song she’d start crooning, the way she did when Els took her to the park on a fall night under the full moon. The choice feels a little maudlin. It’s not as though a human has died.

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