Novecento Alessandro Baricco Critical Thinking

Now you think: a piano. The keys start. The keys end. You know I’m 88, nobody can care about this. They are not infinite, them. You are infinite, and inside those keys, infinite is the music you can play.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Alessandro Baricco in Novecento.

Baricco with his words composes music for mind journeys.

From the pages of Novecento an extraordinary character emerges, Danny Boodman T. D. Lemon Novecento: abandoned as a child on the transatlantic Virginian he is cared for by sailor Danny Boodman, who after only eight years dies leaving him orphaned for the second time.

The small Novecento, however, have sticking points and these are the Virginian, the sea and the music:

It always happened that at one point one raised his head … and he saw it. It’s a difficult thing to understand. I mean … We were in more than a thousand, on that ship, among rich travelers, and emigrants, and weird people, and we …

After the death of his adoptive father he disappears and for a few days nobody has heard from him. Novecento reappears in the ballroom sitting at the piano: his life begins at that precise moment.

His skill will fascinate passengers so much that they will talk of nothing else on dry land. A legend is born, the legend of the pianist on the ocean.

The words, carefully chosen by the author, play emotions.
Here the music is the one that saves, the one that gives meaning to life even when it does not seem to have it.

The music gave shelter to Novecento who has been able to crawl in space between the notes and give the back to solitude.

Novecento is a book to read aloud to hear what beautiful words sounds like.

Reading time
one night on the Virginian

Ph. Sara Cartelli
© The Eat Culture

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If you turned the rumpled, care-worn trumpet player standing in front of us upside down, nothing would come out of his pockets, but he has a rich story to tell. It's about a jazz pianist called Danny Boodmann TD Lemon Novecento, who was found on the first day of a new century in a cardboard box atop the grand piano in the ballroom of a grand ocean-going liner. Novecento never left the liner, and so never officially existed, but when he played the piano his imagination had no limits. He might not have been able to bring himself to disembark, but his mind and his fingers could go anywhere on the 88 keys of the piano, and then a little bit further. Further even than Jelly Roll Morton, the man who claimed to have invented jazz.

The musical duel between the two men is at the heart of Alessandro Baricco's monologue, a neatly turned, self-consciously musical piece that riffs on the complications of desire and an original life lived out to the music playing in your head rather than the constraining choices of the real world. As befits a show produced under the auspices of the Donmar, and which mostly takes place in First Class, this has swanky written all over it, from Paul Wills's design to Fergus O'Hare's ghostly soundscape and Paul Keogan's evocative lighting.

Nonetheless, the 100 minutes is never quite explosive; the piece feels too carefully composed, and lacking in risk and playfulness. In the hands of a lesser performer it might even become irritating. But Mark Bonnar is terrific: as poised, virtuoso and dangerous as you could hope for as the man in search of the elusive, unknowable Novecento, and learning the lesson that when you don't know what something is, it's jazz.

Until 20 November. Box office: 0844 871 7615.

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