Longing tells the story of the greatest artistic couple in history, Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck. They met when she was eight years old and he was seventeen, drawn together first by music and then by their passion for each other. Drawing on their letters and remarkably frank journals, J. D. Landis writes of Clara and Robert’s enforced separations, their marriage, their artistic triumphs and failures, and finally their shared devotion to, and love for, a young genius who both came between them and brought them together for the last time.
Longing was a New York Times Notable Book. It was also named by The Guardian (London) as the second finest novel about music (the first being Thomas Bernhard’s Loser, a judgment with which Mr. Landis is delighted to concur).
“Glorious fiction.” —Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)
“Charged with the drama of passion, unrecognized genius, madness, and early death.” —Newsday
“Richly conveys both the joy and the sorrow of the Schumanns’ extraordinary love story.” —Los Angeles Times
“Brings these fascinating geniuses to vivid life.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Strikingly original . . . Landis tells us that the Schumanns’ marriage was vivid, full of humor, vitality, and a great hunger for music . . . Landis has seamlessly interwoven his text with ideas (about language and music, genius, imagination, and the nature of human devotion) that are very much his own . . . It is almost as if Landis himself were conducting a score, with the two characters his human instruments.” —The New York Times Book Review
J. D. Landis is the author of numerous works of fiction for adults and young readers, including Lying in Bed, which won the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The Sisters Impossible, which was an International Reading Association Children’s Choice. He has long been at work on a novel about the life of Dagny Juel. He lives in New Hampshire.
The tempestuous marriage of Robert and Clara Schumann has inspired many a biographer, but Landis (Lying in Bed) translates the familiar tale into glorious fiction, re-choreographing history in this finely crafted shadowbox of a novel. In the 1830s and '40s, German Romanticism is at its peak. Brilliant and obsessive, composer Robert Schumann and pianist Clara Wieck Schumann perfectly embody the age's glories and excesses. Robert, a student of Clara's father, watches Clara grow up, and marries her when she has barely turned 20; he is 29. Fourteen years and eight children later, Clara takes up with Brahms, then just 20, and Robert dies neglected in a madhouse at age 46. Landis tells this riveting tale of romantic longing and self-destructiveness in strict chronological order, heading each chapter with a place and date, moving back and forth between his two protagonists and charting their history from birth, as a biographer would. Clearly, he knows the period well, and has researched letters, memoirs and Robert Schumann's extensive music criticism; much of the dialogue is based on the actual words of the characters, and Chopin, Mendelssohn and Liszt make convincing appearances. But it is impossible to say where research ends and invention begins. Footnotes, some of them quite long, interrupt the action to comment on the further history of the characters or setting, or on 19th-century Austrian anti-Semitism or the repressive censorship of the Metternich regime (which made it unlawful not only to sing or perform "The Marseillaise," but even to listen to it in one's head). Such digressions might disrupt the narrative and spoil the illusion but, paradoxically, they enhance immediacy. Rather than strive for literary or stylistic effect, Landis relies on the truths of Schumann and Wieck's passion, writing with the earnestness, playfulness and fervor characteristic of the era he chronicles. Expansive and engrossing, this is historical fiction at its best, true to its subjects and steeped in the past. 3-city author tour.