January 19, 2017
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Adelia Saunders' haunting Indelible is a stunning and unique debut novel.
Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:
"Fans of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife will love Saunders' debut, which takes up the mantle of myth, history, and storytelling with beautiful, sure-footed prose."
There is a lot of travelling in this book – by bus, by train, by foot – and a trip always needs a soundtrack. So here are some songs I imagine playing in the background as the characters make their various journeys.
"Ne me quitte pas" by Jacques Brel
Part this story concerns events that took place in Paris in 1954, around the time Jacques Brel was singing in cafes. He wrote "Ne me quitte pas" in 1959 sitting a bar in Montmartre, and if my book had music, this song would play during Richard's first morning in Paris. All his life Richard has thought that in Paris he might find traces of his mother, who left him when he was a child. Now he's finally there, wandering through the city with his suitcase. The lyrics go
Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s'oublier
Qui s'enfuit déjà
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus et le temps perdu
Richard imagines his mother walking down the same little streets, and pretty soon he's lost – until he realizes he must be walking in circles, because he's seeing things in Paris that he's seen before.
"I'm in London Still" by the Waifs
This song by an Australian band is about being in London – still – and missing home. It would be playing as Neil, a college student studying abroad, tries not to throw up on a bumpy bus stuck in traffic on his way out of London. Neil has a package of very late Christmas presents to deliver to the daughter of a Lithuanian woman his father knows, and he has a hangover, and he wishes he were anywhere but there.
"Īssavienojums" by Prāta Vētra (BrainStorm)
This song is by a Latvian band called Prāta Vētra, which means "brainstorm." As BrainStorm this band sings in English – they won a Eurovision award in 2000, and I imagine them being part of the soundtrack of high school for a lot of Baltic teenagers. Magdalena and Lina would have rolled their eyes when their songs came on, but secretly sort of loved them. Or that could just be me. This song, "Īssavienojums" translates to "short circuit" and as best as I can tell the song's chorus goes
If only five dreams in a hundred come true
Then the first is for you, the second for us
The third, fourth, fifth are just reruns…
In my mind, this is the song that moves with Magdalena and Lina to London.
"Lithuanian Lullaby" sung by Veronika Povilionienė
This lullaby comes from a 1989 album called "Musics of the Soviet Union," which is not a typo. It is sung by Veronika Povilionienė, one of the leaders of the Lithuanian "singing revolution," when folksongs became a way to express dissent and nationalism in the period leading up to independence from the Soviet Union. This lullaby would play as Magdalena walks along old pilgrim paths through Spain, thinking of the Lithuanian words she always saw as a child written on her mother's skin, and wondering if her father might have seen them too.
"The Luckiest" by Ben Folds Five
This is another song for a bus trip. It begins, "I don't get many things right the first time…" I imagine this playing with autobahns outside the window as Neil takes the bus from France to Lithuania. Neil has realized he's made a big mistake by letting Magdalena go home to Vilnius, and he thinks he's doing something brave and foolhardy by following her.
This 12th century chant comes from the Codex Calixtinus, the "Book of Saint James." The book includes the original pilgrim's guide to Santiago de Compostela, the medieval pilgrimage Neil is researching during his summer in Paris. The Codex also has an appendix of musical scores, written in Latin, for monks to sing in praise of Saint James and his miracles. This chant, the "Congaudeant Catholici" is the most famous of them; scholars think it may be the first piece of medieval music for three voices, instead of just one or two. The piece of parchment it is written on has two "parts" in black ink, and a third part in red ink. Some scholars point out that this third (red) part adds a discordant note to the other two voices. I like the idea of this two-voiced devotional, with a third voice imposed on it, accompanying the three intertwining stories in this book. I imagine this ancient song playing at the end of the story, as Richard walks to the archives of the Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris, where he will finally learn the truth about his mother.
Adelia Saunders and Indelible links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists