Blue Self-Portrait - Excerpt

One more piece of luck: I didn’t explain to the ­pianist how to play the piano, it was touch and go, I told myself later in the plane, it was a close-run thing, I could very well have done it, I’m perfectly capable, I know I’m capable of explaining the art of the well-tempered keyboard to a pianist as if I myself were a virtuoso. I don’t know anything about music, I’m sitting in front of a virtuoso pianist and explaining exactly how your fingers should rest on the keys, see what I’m capable of. I’m explaining to him how to do it, as if the virtuoso pianist were just waiting for me all along to show him the best way to go about it at last, as if he was going to be filled with wonder at all the little pianistic techniques that I would generously furnish him with so he could improve his playing and become even more virtuosic thanks to me. I truly am capable of leading a master­class for a great pianist of worldwide renown. Of explaining (I can just see myself) how one ought to tackle the second movement of Beethoven’s ­Concerto in C ­major, for example, the opening attack, the crisp yet simultaneously resonant C chord and, in sweeping overview, on the generosity – I could hear ­myself in full flow – discoursing upon the generosity in Beethoven as if this were possible, and then upon the detail, a marginally lighter touch here, a little more colour there; I would quite have expected the pianist ultimately to modify his interpretation of the second movement and to follow these little tips ­freely given by me, who cannot play the piano and know nothing about Beethoven. A piece of luck I narrowly squeaked out of that.

Two days later, leaving the Kaiser Café where I had once again all but spelled out to the virtuoso ­pianist how to handle his piano, a stroke of luck that I’d stopped myself just in time, I uttered my not­orious Ich habe zu viel gesprochen for it was true, I had said too much, so much too much that I had to proclaim this brand-new truth the very moment it occurred to me; my noble pianist: no, not at all, it’s quite all right, he sweetly replied, warmly replied, even though it wasn’t fine, not only not fine but catastrophic, so catastrophic as to be irreparable, besides I didn’t repair anything but on the contrary ­promptly went and dug myself in deeper: of course I had to interrupt again, when I had only just said Ich habe zu viel gesprochen, I didn’t pause and count to ten, not to ten nor to any lesser number, I didn’t count at all; I just had to go on and on in the under­ground car park when he, our poor pianist, was already and indeed for some time had been, broken, kaput, as they say, in fact just five minutes after stepping inside the ­Kaiser Café he’d already begun to yawn, ten minutes in was out of commission and quite kaput, and yet here we are in the underground car park and I’m picking on his car, I have to make some comment about his car being unworthy of a world-class pianist, as if all that I’d said before in the Kaiser Café hadn’t been appalling, about ­music in general and the pianist’s playing in particular even though I haven’t the first notion about music in general, and as for the pianist’s playing in particular here I go even now critiquing it from every angle, not only the ­music performed by the pianist but also that composed by the composer, the pianist ­being both pianist and composer, I am a pianist first and foremost and yet foremost and first of all I am a ­composer, the pianist said one day to all within earshot, indeed the pianist did have a talent for com­posing that not every pianist is blessed with – and the composer a pian­istic virtuosity to which few composers may lay claim, both gifts united in a single person, in the perfect bodily and spiritual ­harmony that alone could justify the general and nevertheless exceptional title of musician; I am, above all a musician, the pianist said, it isn’t my profession but my condition, yet in spite of his condition I held back a mere hair’s breadth away from explaining to the pianist how to play the piano and to the composer how to compose. In the car park right now, I’m inspecting his vehicle, inside and out, the state of the bodywork, the ergonometry of the seats, I’ve estimated its resale value and underestimated all other values, sat in there ready to ride shotgun though ­minus the gun, broadcasting my observations about his car, unworthy as it was of a world-class pianist, it’s no good, however clearly I see it coming I always end up slagging off anyone and everyone precisely when tête à tête with a very particular someone, I brazenly sabotage all chance of a future as if I didn’t know that what’s said is said, retraction is out of the question, it is definitively too late. 

Blue Self-Portrait Cover Image
By Noemi Lefebvre, Sophie Lewis (Translator)
ISBN: 9781945492105
Availability: available for order
Published: Transit Books - April 3rd, 2018