Perhaps the greatest novel about sanatoriums is Mann’s Magic Mountain. It’s difficult not to think of that novel when reading this one. Jersusalmy’s style is far removed from Mann’s, though his book is just as good. The connection comes because of what happened to Mann and his works under Nazi Germany.
Jerusalmy’s novel is about Otto, a man who is slowly dying in an Austria sanatorium when the Nazis take Austria. He finds not only things changing (he isn’t quite sure about what has happened to all his family) but also the perversion of music. It is this that gives rise to the book’s title. Though, whether Mozart gets saved or Otto is another question.
It is quite a short but lovely novel. Told though Otto’s journal (which he hopes his son will eventually read), the story moves quickly. Otto’s voice is quite clear, and he is as honest as he can be. The story will appeal to those who like historical fiction as well as those who like music.
Jeruslamy’s deserves credit for keeping Otto’s knowledge in the realm of believability. Therefore, we know exactly what his tenet’s husband is doing, but Otto doesn’t – not really. In many ways, it is this underplays/understatement that is the book’s best selling point.