Published 15th June 2017 / ISBN 978-0-9930093-2-7 / 160 pp / 180 x 120 / paperback / RRP: GBP 10.99 The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. Yet music is shown to continue to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures. This book is supported by the French Institute (UK) as part of the Burgess programme, and is the recipient of a translation grant by the Centre National du Livre (CNL).

Published 15th June 2017 / ISBN 978-0-9930093-2-7 / 160 pp / 180 x 120 / paperback / RRP: GBP 10.99
The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. Yet music is shown to continue to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures.

This book is supported by the French Institute (UK) as part of the Burgess programme, and is the recipient of a translation grant by the Centre National du Livre (CNL).

This book is supported by the French Institute (UK) as part of the Burgess programme, and is the recipient of a translation grant by the Centre National du Livre (CNL).

This book is supported by the French Institute (UK) as part of the Burgess programme, and is the recipient of a translation grant by the Centre National du Livre (CNL).

 

BLUE SELF-PORTRAIT

By Noémi Lefebvre
Translated by Sophie Lewis
Exclusive pre-publication excerpt published by Granta

'...like an application of the prose style of Thomas Bernhard to a particular female experience more reminiscent of Bridget Jones: a form of acute social embarrassment and chronic self-deprecation. The strength of Lefebvre's novel is that it holds this private anxiety in balance not just with the highbrow cultural references of a well-educated European elite (Brecht, Mann and Adorno all get nods) but with the trauma of the Continent's recent history.' Times Literary Supplement

'“You’ll have to change that way you talk, my girl, I told myself in German, in French, then in German again, then in French, as if I was my own mother,” says the protagonist to herself at the outset. Her plane has just taken off from Berlin and, for the 90 minutes of its flight to Paris, we are at the mercy of the highly entertaining cycles and reflections of our unnamed heroine’s linguistic neuroses. Accompanied by her sister, whose interjections and observations punctuate her digressions, she’s also cringe-suffering over the memory of a man she left behind. He’s an American-German composer, whose own thoughts on their brief interlude together – and other subjects – also intrude over the course of the novel. These subjects, ranging from anxiety that his sexual desirability is dependent on his girlfriend imagining she’s sleeping with the next Schoenberg, to the paralysing effect of nazism on art, to beautiful insights into the compositional process, ensure that the book is no melancholic meditation on lost loves. For a comparatively short novel, Blue Self-Portrait yokes together an extraordinary profusion of ideas.(...) a dense, intense examination of the disruptive effect that ideas about art and politics have on one another.' Eimear McBride, Guardian

'This tireless cascade is both overwhelming and charming (...) Were we to note the musical expression with which Blue Self-Portrait is performed, it would be con bravura, or even staccato: unchained, wildly.' BOMB

'We are in Berlin, we are in France, we are in a plane; we are between countries and places and present and past, we are between different minds and different moments… Lefebvre’s narrative is rich and engaging, and Lewis’ translation – which I imagine must have been a tough one to do – never falters for a moment. This is a weighty, literary, text, and other than length it is not a “small” book. It is ideas and emotion-rich, and for anyone else who’s all into this contemporary stream of consciousness revival, it’s definitely worth your time.' Scott Manley Hadley, The Triumph of Now

'As the plot unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions Lefebvre’s musical prose reflects the multidisciplinary approach of the artist it pays homage to.' Big Issue North

L’autoportrait bleu calls to mind fine lacework, all fancy stitching, a delicate succession of interconnected loops. Nothing but beautiful work here. In this devilishly virtuosic text, which also evokes contrapuntal music, Noémi Lefebvre writes like a genuine composer. It’s rare to find a writer successfully able to lend a musical shape to their text. Lefebvre has taken up the challenge in this astonishing, vertiginous account.’ Le Figaro littéraire

‘The dense, fine-tuned, ever perfectionist writing in this debut novel reinforces its immediacy, grips the reader to the point of obsession.’ L’Humanité 

'Beautifully pitched and compellingly virtuosic (...) Blue Self-Portrait accomplishes its own inner musicality, while presenting the spectre of a self-portrait lived between memory, association and speculation.' Contemporary Small Press