The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Title: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
Author: Jan-Philipp Sendker
Translated by: Kevin Wiliarty (from German)
Pages: 325
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Other Press, LLC
Pub. Date: January 31, 2012

"And so there must be in life something like a catastrophic turning point, when the world as we know it ceases to exist. A moment that transforms us into a different person from one heartbeat to the next." (p.23) 

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a sensory novel about the power of love and human emotion. The passages were beautifully written, and the story itself was charming and delicate, yet powerful. The premise is that Julia, a fairly recent law school graduate, decides to travel to Burma to track down her father who mysteriously disappeared a few years earlier and who, it was recently learned, had traveled to Asia to return to the place where he grew up. Once in Burma, Julia meets a man, U Ba, who claims to have known Julia's father and who regales her with the supposed story of her father's childhood and life. In so doing, U Ba tells a charming tale of a young boy who is blind - a boy who learns to navigate and appreciate the world with his other senses - a boy who falls in love with a local girl and creates a relationship with her so close that others envy them despite their struggles.

Most of this book was made up of U Ba's retelling of this man's life. The story had a folk tale quality to it. I was reminded of The Blind Contessa's New Machine because of the beauty and charm in the writing and the story (coincidentally, the main characters in both are blind, but that wasn't what drew the similarity). And I was also reminded of (the movie version of) The Notebook because of that powerful and unyielding love that, I think, everyone wants. This book had all those things. So much of this book was about emotions and was almost encouraging, in a way, to become a more loving and peaceful person. Let me include some quotes that portrayed this for me:
It is rage that blinds and deafens us. Or fear. Envy, mistrust. The world contracts, gets all out of joint when you are angry or afraid. (p. 124)

A time of waiting offered moments, minutes, sometimes even hours of peace, of rest, during which, as a rule, she was alone with herself. and she needed these breaks to prepare herself for anything new, for any kind of change.  (p. 165)

Love has so many different faces that our imagination is not prepared to see them all.... because we see only what we already know. We project our own capacities for - good as well as evil - onto the other person. Then we acknowledge as love primarily those things that correspond to our own image thereof. We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. any other ways makes us uncomfortable. (p. 243)
And here's a quote for book lovers:
Only a few days earlier he had explained to her that he did not merely read books but traveled with them, that they took him to other countries and unfamiliar continents, and that with their help he was always getting to now new people, many of whom even became his friends. (p. 128)
The beauty this book elicited is its greatest strength - a reminder about the power of love and about the beauty all around us that we not even need to see to appreciate.


Juju at Tales of said...

Wow. It sounds so good. Such awesome passages.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

This was is new to me, and I'm realyl curious to read it. It sounds wonderful!

Ti said...

The writing is beautiful! I've never heard of this one prior to your review.

Zibilee said...

I loved this review, and think that you highlighted the unique and elegant writing with all the quotes you shared. I have this one on audio, and it seems that I need to make the time for it! Terrific review today!

Jenna said...

This is a new-to-me book, but I'm definitely putting this on my TBR immediately! Those passages you quoted are absolutely gorgeous. I love that the book promotes becoming more loving and peaceful. What a great message to send!

Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

I've seen this book pop up a couple places recently. I really want to read it!

Booksnyc said...

I bought this book a few years ago and was looking forward to it but after reading your review with the quotes, I am know I definitely want to read it!

roman hossain said...

Julia Win returns to narrate the tale of her second trip to Burma in a story that uses the same techniques – the intermingling of Julia’s first person account, long tales of the past related to her by other characters, and letters – employed in the earlier book.

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