Sunday, August 12, 2007

Chopin's Funeral by Benita Eisler

Chopin's Funeral by Benita Eisler starts, as you would expect, with the composer's funeral. It was a big affair with four thousands invitation-only guests, held in a cathedral, with music chosen by Frederic Chopin himself. Rich friends paid for the affair, which masked the near poverty in which he died.

Despite the title, the focus of the book is Chopin's life, especially his unlikely nine-year relationship with the French novelist George Sand. He and the novelist were in many ways opposites. She was more gregarious, and some of the friends that she chose shocked him. She was a socialist, and he longed for a good monarchy. They also disagreed about how Sand should raise her daughter.

Chopin's Funeral is a great book for a discussion. It is only 206 pages of text (not counting the notes and index), and the story is deftly told. Readers will know the some of the characters already, including Franz Liszt, Eugene Delacroix, and Victor Hugo. Gustave Flaubert, Jenny Lind, and James Whistler also make cameo appearances. Readers will want to learn more about the French singer Pauline Viardot.

Reading about early to middle nineteenth century Paris life is also interesting. Chopin sees the procession to encrypt Napoleon's ashes and is trapped in his apartment when the streets of Paris are barricaded in 1848.

What really makes the book a candidate for discussion is questions everyone will ask:

  • Why did Frederic Chopin never go back to see his family and the homeland that he claimed that he loved?
  • Why did Chopin detest Liszt?
  • What did Sand and Chopin see in each other?
  • Why did Sand treat her daughter Solange so badly?

Play Chopin's Preludes as people arrive and serve French wines. A discussion of Chopin's Funeral will be a party to remember.

Eisler, Benita. Chopin's Funeral. Knopf, 2003. ISBN 0375409459

1 comment:

maggie moran said...

Sounds good and I'll order it Monday. :)