A GREATER MUSIC by Bae Suah translated by Deborah Smith Open Letter Press, 128 pages reviewed by Justin Goodman
Bae Suah’s newest English-translated work, A Greater Music
, describes the Austrian composer Franz Schubert as “a short, fat, shy myopic.” As brutal as this description is of a man who unhappily died before his 32nd year, it seems altogether different in tone when used to describe Bae’s novel itself. Filled with observatory indifference and an almost disembodied airiness, the novel comes across particularly as commentary, and as particularly rebellious. But what’s striking about A Greater Music
is that it treats the work of Schubert above the man, treats the novel above the social, giving grandeur to otherwise short, fat, shy myopics. They are breathing things that were trapped in frames ill-suited for their sublimity—short in length, fat with substance, shy about their revelations, and myopic in their attentions, they are beings greater than their comportment can present. Something so heavy has rarely looked so light. Superficially, A Greater Music
comes across like a South Korean variation on Bret Easton Ellis. The story of a bored, well-to-do individual striving to communicate in a world foreign to her—in A Greater Music
, the world ...