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3.92  ·  Rating details ·  285 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Life in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the late 1980s is bleak and controlled. The oppressive Communist regime bears down on all aspects of people’s lives much like the granite sky overhead. In the crumbling old building that hosts the Sofia Music School for the Gifted, inflexible and unsentimental apparatchiks drill the students like soldiers—as if the music they are teaching did no ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Free Press (first published 2011)
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  285 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daisy by: on Olga Grushin's list
(I lent this book to Petr S.)
The best thing to do would be to listen to the music of each chapter while you're reading it.

I knew the feeling of becoming suddenly self-aware while playing in front of a large audience; the panic that seizes your mind and body when you realize that you've been playing a Chopin ballad for what seems like ages, and you've yet to go through the coda. To forget oneself again, once you've woken up in the middle: that's the hardest thing to do onstage, and perhaps in lif
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Минаха седмици, откакто я прочетох, а все още я държа на масата си. Искам винаги да е на една ръка разстояние от мен, за да мога веднага, когато поискам, да прочета любимите ми сцени – свързани с музика, разбира се, със свиренето на протагониста и Ирина. Богата проза, пищна – и в цинизма на моменти, и в пресъздаването на най-висшите музикални трепети. Уникално пресъздадена атамосфера – и на стара София в края на 80-те, и на Музикалното училище, много ме впечатлиха и страниците за подземията на г ...more
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Nikolai Grozni's book Wunderkind was a terrifying reading experience. It was also disturbing, sad, embarrassing. A few times I had to put it down and walk away. It was quite literally making me sick.

It is also absolutely spectacular.

Wunderkind is an autobiographical novel about a piano student at the Sofia Music School for the Gifted in the last couple of years of communism. Konstantin and his friends are bright, passionate, talented and that makes them everything that the regime does not need t
David Peters
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was pretty grim. It depicts a communist run music school for truly talented protégés a few years before the Berlin wall came down and subsequently communism. Our hero is an extremely talented pianist who is just tired. Tired of being repressed and forced to be what others expect of him instead of being free to explore the music as it speaks to him. Given I attended a boarding school (I actually lived at home as I was only a few miles from campus) I can say he got the atmosphere perfect ...more
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kiste-1, bg-fiction
Виктор Пасков и Оскар Уайлд се срещнали в един бар на небето. Пили, пили и решили да напишат общ роман през живата ръка на обещаващ млад писател, ама да не е сдухан тип - по тази точка нямали никакви възражения. В пепелнилка върху масата, около която двамата водели оживения си спор какъв точно да бъде този роман и що за герои да го населяват, още димял незагасналият фас на Борис Виан, когото те засекли на влизане. Той им кимнал за поздрав и промърморил нещо за пяната на дните. В бара звучала муз ...more
Стефан Русинов
Гледа ми се филм по тая мания.

Приемам, че цинизмът е оправдан, понеже разказвачът е свободолюбив музикант, угнетен от тоталитарния режим в музикалното училище, така че няма как иначе да се справи с реалността, освен чрез бунт, но ми дойде нанагорно. Във втората половина получих усещането, че Константин всъщност има нужда от цинизма като основополагащ камък в идентичността си и следователно има нужда всички около него да са идиоти, за да подхранват световъзприятието му. Това малко ме подразни (съ
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
now I wonder if I will always cry while listening to Bach's sonata n.5...

Perfect timing for this book.
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a phenomenal book. It captures the atmosphere of 1980's Sofia brilliantly: "The sky over Sofia is made of granite. It is gray in the morning, grayer in the afternoon, and black at night; black, but with a faint ruby glow, its hard, grainy surface ignited by blinking traffic lights, brightly lit streetcars, restless apartment buildings, television sets, neon signs, by iridescent Russian soldiers cast in bronze and the red dreams of fat apparatchiks sleepwalking through the collected works ...more
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, music, favorites
The Holden Caulfield of post-1980s Sofia, Bulgaria, is a gifted pianist rebelling against a system that both supports and suffocates him. The strong memoir aspect of the writing makes the story more intense, but it is the writing about piano music that makes it the best I've ever read. It may be difficult to write about music, but he does it in such a way that I instantly identified with his descriptions (I have a more modest piano background). Art vs. Life; Art may be greater, but it is still s ...more
May 23, 2017 added it
The last 100 pages were the best out of the 320 . Probably would have enjoyed it more if I was a pianist. Or knew how to read music sheets. Or knew anything about music at all.

90% bought it for the book cover. 10% because 80's and history is fun :))
Amy Lignor
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a debut novel that is absolutely mesmerizing! The author of this magical story is a very-accomplished memoirist who has been heralded by the New York Times Book Review for his Editor’s Choice Pick, Turtle Feet. But in this, his first foray into the world of fiction, Nikolai Grozni offers a captivating story that will have readers calling out for his next book!

The narrator of our novel is a fifteen-year-old young man by the name of Konstantin, and to say this boy has talent would be an u
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The narrator of "Wunderkind", Konstantin, is memorable not only for his bad attitude, but for the total immersion of his life in music. Everything reminds him of a particular piano interlude; every piece of music contains an intimate, detailed, vast, and deep communication with the universe. Like most adolescents, he is a hopeless romantic, seeing clearly and sarcastically the faults and shortcomings of society and those who give it structure and meaning, including himself. His musical analogies ...more
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wunderkind has so many aspects to it that make it a wonderful, engulfing read. Grozni has a way with words, and his writing is excellent. There's very few books that seriously impact me emotionally, but this was one of them. Sometimes after putting Wunderkind down for the night (and maybe it was just because I was reading late at night that I was so affected or because I'm still an angsty, stressed teenager), the whole loneliness and depression of the characters and setting made me feel like cur ...more
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, own, vine
Despite Grozni’s obvious writing skill and his command of language, I found myself struggling with this novel. Even as the daughter of a professional musician, I found the musical imagery too abstract and the cadence of the prose challenging. Konstantin’s narrative is very cerebral and his inflections were dense and dark. I can certainly understand his disenchantment with the suppression of the Communist regime; his defiant response to authority is easy to sympathize with. The students of the So ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, reviewed, 2015
Wow. Just wow.
Incredibly beautifull prosing making you smell and feel the dirty old streets of Sofia just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, making you empathize for the 15y old piano virtuoso Konstatin who's life is one big depression fed by cigarettes, coffee and lost love and making you emotional every time you hear a piano piece from Chopin.

This book is easily in my favorites for a long, long time and I recommend it to anyone who's up for 300 pages of grey skies and communist rebellion. 10
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing. The descriptive writing in this book was beautiful and no matter who you are, musician or not, Gronzi's brilliant writing lets you feel what Konstantin feels when he plays his instruments. The naked truth of the world in which he lives is gritty and ugly, yet the music is so otherworldly in it's beauty. The juxtaposition of the two halves of Konstatin's life is wonderfully done and I would definitely recommend this book. It really transports you into Konstatin's world of Sovi ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A multi-dimensional depiction of the communist era in Bulgaria during the 1980s, life at the Sofia State music school and the acts of rebellion by the main characters. A lot of the stories are based on actual events, which I remember from my time as a student at that school. The musical descriptions are fantastic!
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Simply beautiful writing. Savored to the last word.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ще заявя важното ясно в началото: пасажите във "Вундеркинд" за музика са сред най-плътната и превъзходна проза, писана на български език. Нерешимият ребус как звукът да се сведе до думи получава своя привиден отговор за няколко страници във всяка глава; тук прозира не просто познанието на автора за класиката, а дълбоко разбиране на същността на музиката. Това е повече от достатъчно за да вложи читателят своето време в книгата.

Светът на творбата е изграден върху талвега талант/бездарие; героят, г
Pam Giarrizzo
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-booktrekker
A rebellious teenaged prodigy studying piano at an authoritarian school for the musically-gifted in communist Bulgaria – what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, as it turns out, and fifteen-year-old Konstantin learns some hard life lessons in Nikolai Grozni’s semiautobiographical novel Wunderkind.

Konstantin’s passion for playing the works of Frédéric Chopin is matched only by his enthusiasm for having sex with the girls in his school, especially the brilliant violinist Irina. He and Irina challeng
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This book tries to make up for its shortcomings with intensely descriptive passages about music, the setting, and the feelings of the characters. If you're into that sort of thing, then, this book is perfect. I was hoping for a bit more drama than I got. It was definitely slow paced, and some underdevelopment.
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
My two stars are mainly for effort. Too dark, too slow, too many musical references (and I have played clarinet in large concert bands for 66 years), too long sentences, and too lacking a plot in the first 33 pages when I finally gave up. I usually read at least 50 pages before giving up on a book, but 33 was all I could take. Be warned.
Cole Swafford
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Catcher In The Rye WISHES that it was this book. So beautiful. So tragic. This a new favorite of mine.
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
It makes me wish I knew more about music. The writing is so lyrical, so evocative— it makes me desire the desire for sound.
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Jag är inte musikmänniska tillräckligt för att uppskatta och förstå detta musikaliska underbarn.
Chelsea Taylor
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-2018
As a classical pianist myself (although not nearly the wunderkind that is Konstantin) I enjoyed the escapism of the pieces.
That’s about all I enjoyed.
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music, art, contemporary
Definitely the best book I've read so far in 2014, but be prepared; it's incredibly bleak and depressing, but an incredibly insightful look into the fine line between genius and madness that artists balance precariously between. The novel is loosely based on the author's troubled youth as a music student in Sofia, Bulgaria, and begins about 2 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Konstantin's voice definitely reminds me vaguely of Houlden Caulfied and his fight against the "phonies", which i ...more
Mary (BookHounds)
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Konstantin is a child prodigy, playing the piano perfectly from a young age. He is sent to the best music academy in Bulgaria at the end of the Cold War right before the fall of the communist party. The story covers about two years of his life at age 16 and details the horrific abuse and hopelessness of the people during the late Eighties. The world Grozni has created seems almost out of a fantasy novel and it is hard to imagine a place where simple freedoms that we take for granted are nonexist ...more
May 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: music, balkans
For me, this book suffers from his author's ambition. Nikolai Grozni decided to fit his experience as a young piano prodigy in a Communist school in Sofia in the 80's into the form of a novel, and he chose to write it in English, which is not his native tongue.
His story loses consequently truth and poignancy on account of over-dramatization. Not only is the school staff a collection of sadistic villains, but the protagonist's parents are unsupportive, loveless monsters as well. This is a sample
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is such a great book dealing with life in Bulgaria before the fall of Communism. I find it interesting that I didn't even really like the main character, Konstantin, but I still cared about him (if that makes any sense at all). I think I cared about him because I agree with his thinking completely, but he is young and he doesn't necessarily fight back in the best ways, which leads me to not like him very much. Aside from the main character, this book is beautifully written, it's kind of min ...more
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Nikolai Grozni was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. His given name is Nikolai Grozdinski - Николай Гроздински.

He began training as a classical pianist at the age of four and won his first major award in Salerno, Italy, at the age of nine. He studied jazz at Berklee College of Music, Boston. He began writing while living in India, where he spent four years as a Buddhist monk, studying Tibetian texts at th
“We would kiss slowly, like scientists who analyzed the chemistry of passion, the electricity of desperation, the heat of loneliness, the sudden fluidity of time.” 11 likes
“Youth is feeling seventy years old, misanthropic, and ready to die at fifteen” 9 likes
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