Lucy's Reviews > The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
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's review
Mar 26, 2012

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Read from March 14 to 24, 2012

I think I underestimated this novel. After finishing it two days ago and dismissing it as nothing more than a romantic fable, time and discussion with my mother have made it uncomfortably clear that I didn't appreciate this story for what it is: a juxtaposition between eastern and western thought and the probability of an alternate reality.

In spite of those complicated layers, it IS also a romantic fable. Tin Win is a poor boy in Burma, forced to accept the fate the astrologers gave him on the day of his unlucky birth. Through acceptance and humility, he enjoys a peaceful and satisfying life of education from a Buddist monk and is surprised by the unfamiliar joy he feels when he falls in love with a local cripple, Mi Mi. While certainly no expert, I would guess it falls at least partially into the magical realism genre with the unbelievable happenings and quite fantastical plot development.

However, as the story unfolds via story telling from an easterner to a cyncical westerner, Tin Win's New york daughter (you'll have to read the book to unravel the mystery of how Tin Win became a New Yorker), the reader is unknowingly exposed to his or her own bias. I am thoroughly western. I could scarcely believe anybody could think and act the way the Burmese people did in this story. My mother, who lived in Myanmar (Burma) for nearly two years assures me that there is indeed a great difference. So, I can say there is no way this story could happen, that it is fantasy, but perhaps I am seeing only with my eyes (again, you'll understand that reference if you read the book).

Translated originally from German, this is a beautiful and, yes, romantic story. I wish I could fully appreciate its beauty but with my nearsighted sensibilities, I'm afraid its truth is beyond my ability to grasp.
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03/25/2012 page 336
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