Music For Wartime
A collection of short stories with intelligence, wit, and heart.
A reality show producer manipulates two contestants into falling in love, while her own relationship falls apart. Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a young boy has a revelation about his father’s past when a renowned Romanian violinist plays a concert in their home. In an unnamed country, a composer records the folk songs of two women from a village on the brink of destruction.
Ranging from comedy to tragedy to the surreal, from the world of academia to war zones, these fifteen stories ask the question of what it means to be an artist in a brutal and sometimes ugly world.
Praise for the book
“Though these stories alternate in time between WWII and the present day, they all are set, as described in the story “Exposition,” within “the borders of the human heart”—a terrain that their author maps uncommonly well.”
—Publisher’s Weekly, starred and featured review
“[An] excellent debut collection of stories . . . characterized by a striking blend of whimsy and poignancy, elegy and ebullience . . . [that] demonstrate an impressive range. . . . While some stories are straightforwardly realistic and others wildly fantastical, all are witty, rueful and wise. . . . I look forward with great anticipation . . . to anything else this immensely gifted writer produces.”
—Priscilla Gilman, The Boston Globe
“Great, absorbing stuff… delivered with just the right measure of economy… The short story is the ideal venue for Makkai’s considerable talent, not only for drawing nuanced characterizations, but for contriving strange and fascinating premises. . . . With Music for Wartime, Makkai takes her place – one she deserves – among the artists with aplomb.”
“Ricocheting from the war-torn twentieth century to the reality-show-rich present day, the stories in this impressive collection feature characters buffeted by fate—or is it mere happenstance? The death of a circus elephant shapes generations of a small town; a passing remark ruins a plotted-out life. Our sense of history is probed, too, not without humor—Bach appears in a Manhattan living room one day, a spot of comfort in one woman’s post-9/11 life. In a series of shorter pieces, the author relates nuggets of family history and legend, including a story about young women in Budapest who used greasepaint to transform themselves into old women, in order to be spared at least one of war’s ugly realities.”
—The New Yorker
“A beautiful book and a must-read . . . Rebecca Makkai is a rising literary star, whose short stories appeared just about everywhere before she turned to writing novels. So this is an exciting and exceptional return to the short story for Makkai, and for all of us.”
“Rebecca Makkai writes stories like houses: brick and mortar, but strangely alive. At their best, they fall together lightly, as if four walls and a roof should just happen to run into each other at the right place and the right time. More than a few are haunted.”
—The Chicago Tribune
“The heartbreak… feels particular, grainy: real. It’s a gut-punch that lands.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Haunting . . . Seventeen stories with the impact of a quiver of arrows aimed at the heart.”