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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Аутопсия на една любl

Viktor Paskow

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Title: Аутопсия на една любl
Author: Viktor Paskow
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005
Length: 404 pages
Original in: Bulgarian
Availability: Autopsie - Deutschland
  • Аутопсия на една любов has not yet been translated into English.

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Our Assessment:

B : too heavily reliant on melodrama and sex, but otherwise fine

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Култура C- 7/2006 Angel Igov
NZZ . 1/10/2011 Ulrich M. Schmid

  From the Reviews:
  • "Започвам с това твърдение: последният роман на Виктор Пасков Аутопсия на една любов е обида. Обида е за своите читатели, обида е за онези, които следят и обичат творчеството на Пасков, обида е -- или поне би трябвало да бъде -- за собствения си автор; обида е изобщо за литературното поле, макар че някои от причините за тази обида трябва да търсим извън Пасков и по-скоро в същото това литературно поле. (...) Дълбокият проблем, както аз го виждам, е, че вместо сюжетът да служи като конструкция, около която постепенно се оформя романът, става тъкмо обратното: романът тръгва на юруш (с много секс и алкохол) и търси опипом сюжета си по коридорите на едно все по-набъбващо повествование. Грубо казано, в един момент авторът сякаш е забравил за какво точно пише. (...) При все обидата си, нека бъда честен. Този роман не е боклук. Има нелоши моменти, има интересни места, преди всичко от езикова и емоционална гледна точка." - Angel Igov, Култура

  • "(E)in Sittengemälde der bulgarischen Künstlerbohème in Berlin" - Ulrich M. Schmid, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

[Note: Аутопсия на една любов has not been translated into English, and this review is based on the German translation by Alexander Sitzmann, Autopsie (2010). All quotes are my translation from that German version.]

       Аутопсия на една любов ('Autopsy of a Love') is narrated by a clarinetist, a Bulgarian who has lived in Berlin for the past twenty years and plays as part of an orchestra, as well as playing jazz-saxophone on his own time. The love of his life, Ina, calls him 'Charlie', though that is not his actual name:

She could call me Charlie, Vanja, Richard, Elvis, Mustafa or Thomas Alva Edison, for all I cared. My name wasn't important. I could identify just as easily with any name.
       When the novel opens, it's been two months and five days since Ina suddenly left, and he's still devastated by her departure and absence: "I have no goal, no will, my life has no purpose", he complains. He does hook up with another Bulgarian, Sarah, and repeats scenes from his adventures with Ina with her (some public, under-the-table sex play (involving also a cigarette-lighter); a visit to a swinger's club), as if that could somehow make her more Ina-like, but she's never much more than just a stand-in.
       After some back and forth, with scenes from present and past, Charlie gets down to recounting his relationship with Ina as it happened -- and then the aftermath. Greatly taken by her when he visits Sofia, he finds something missing when he returns to Berlin. Really missing: the orchestra-conductor decides that, for the first concert back, they're going to squeeze Mozart's clarinet concerto (K.622) into the program -- meaning Charlie gets center stage and can show off his stuff. Except that when he tries, he finds he can't: he has it technically down pat -- he's been playing this piece all his life -- but there's nothing to it beyond that; in fact, it sounds awful. So bad that the director warns him his job is on the line if he doesn't figure this out.
       Charlie gets himself excused from all the rehearsals save the final one, and looks to get himself back on track. And he figures out what it is he needs: Ina. He buys her a ticket and flies her in; she's willing -- giving up her job in the process -- and they immediately are the happiest of couples. Not just that: with his muse at his side, whatever musical block Charlie had, it's gone.
       Charlie holds back at the dress rehearsal, and then goes all-in at the performance. He's as inspired as he's ever been, his triumph complete, a success beyond words. He's immediately inundated with offers from prominent orchestras, but he sticks with the one he's in: the money is about the same everywhere (and it's a lot), and there's the possibility of being named a Kammermusiker, a great honor that would also flatter his ego.
       There are downsides -- no more time for jazz on the side, for one -- but on the whole he now has everything he could ever dream of, professionally and personally. Including -- or especially -- Ina, as their relationship continues as wonderfully as before.
       But there are a few warnings signs -- blackouts of sorts that Ina has ..... After one such episode she asks him: "What will happen when you lose me and can't find me again ?" He'd do anything to find her, he assures her -- but she begs him: "Don't do that, Charlie. Please don't. Promise me that."
       The foreboding naturally eventually plays out: for all Charlie's success, the (professional) rug is unexpectedly pulled out from under him -- and, because he declined the previous generous offers he had received he is apparently blackballed everywhere else: "no proper orchestra would even invite me to audition". (This doesn't seem entirely realistic .....). With Ina's disappearance then, his life spirals out of control, a descent into alcohol and drugs, all the while longing only for Ina, who had left from one day to the next, without a trace.
       An element of melodrama creeps in when ultimately it is revealed that Ina had good reason for leaving -- and it had little to do with Charlie -- and while he eventually more or less tracks her down, there can be no happy ending .....
       The (sudden-)success story is a bit hard to believe, after twenty years at it, but presumably meant also to show just how formidable and inspiring true love can be; oddly, Paskow also then relies on the sappiest of plot-twists -- in Ina's disappearance, and the reasons for it -- to put an end to this perfection. But the (simple) story is only part of the novel, which riffs, jazz-like, on life, and love -- the (jazz) musician's life, in particular, with its pull of freedom (not nearly contrasted enough with the regimented orchestra-life that is Charlie's day-job, though Paskow obviously wants to show that), and also, above all: sex.
       There is a lot of sex in the novel, the descriptions drawn out at arguably excessive length, detail that does bring the stories to shuddering slow-downs if not halts. Some of this does work: the examples where Charlie repeats the experiences he had with Ina with Sarah are interesting because of that attempt at shadowing and doing-over. But too much of the sex is just for the sex's sake, with only very limited reflection on what this means to those participating and their relationships.
       It's the melodramatic simplification that crops up both in the larger story and in some of the details that's the weakest part of the novel. And the scenes of alcoholic and drug excess are as boring as ... they pretty much always are. Paskow's first-person narrator does, however, convince when he's most realistic (i.e. not involved in some over-the-top excess -- of passion, professional success, or drugs/alcohol), and here this portrait of a musician abroad in his mid-forties, drawn to the freedoms of jamming with his friends, not certain what world he belongs to or fits in, is quite good.
       Аутопсия на една любов reads fairly quickly and easily -- Paskow has some style, and writes confidently -- and has some appeal, but ultimately it is too simple a story that leans too heavily on melodrama for too many of its central elements.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 August 2019

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Аутопсия на една любl: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Bulgarian author Victor Paskov (Виктор Пасков; Viktor Paskow) lived 1949 to 2009.

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© 2019 the complete review

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