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When I first met Vikram Seth and later heard him speak at the Hay Festival in Trivandrum two years ago, I knew I would appreciate his written word as much as I was enthralled by the spoken ones. Having randomly chosen to read his work, ‘An Equal Music’, from the rest of the more famous lot, I find myself not just appreciative, but moved beyond words at the sheer beauty of the finely crafted story of music, love and loss.
Set mainly in London and Vienna, among the musical legacy of Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Haydn, ‘An Equal Music’ is essentially the story of a man and a woman in love. It goes a step further by also being the stories of musicians – in quartets and in solitude, in success and in disillusionment. Our man and woman are all of these- lost and found and lost again to their passionate loves and passion for music.
In fact so finely balanced is Vikram Seth’s prose on the technicalities and moods of various musical genres and instruments that the entire book feels like a melody played out in a place like paradise! The reader grows with the characters as they sweep across phases of deep distraught and longing; and rejoices when solitary hearts are united to love that blooms the fullest. And then the subtle touch of human vices, nervous breakdowns and hidden secrets that add flair to the plot.
The blurb made the musical noob in me a bit apprehensive, of whether I’d be able to catch up with all the technicalities of chamber music and performances. But thanks to Mr.Seth, after reading it I felt like an apprentice of Mozart himself, where violin and cellos were nothing but daily deal in my life! It made me at ease with the once thought as alien world of western classics and changed my perspective about ‘this, that and the other’ (as one of the characters oft says) of music and life. Emotions run so high and wild in this musical journey that towards the end it took me a lot of self control to not have a nervous breakdown as one of them eventually did!
‘An Equal Music’ is not just a grand journey of love and music. It is a celebration of human relationships, and even beyond, of mind and matter. A whole new world opens out to you at the turn of every chapter that keeps you wanting more. Even if it does not boast of a happy ending, at the end of this read you are left with a bittersweet aftertaste of woven memories from a distant fictional world, worth being a part of! This one goes out to all those who have loved and lost, and yet again loved.