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Past BOTM discussions > APRIL 2018 BOTM: A Ballad for Georg Henig - Victor Peskov

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message 1: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4107 comments Mod
Welcome Moderator, George.


message 2: by George P. (last edited Apr 01, 2018 08:45PM) (new)

George P. | 483 comments I didn't expect this thead to post until April 1st, so my apologies to any who found it empty in the last few days. It's an honor to be moderator for this book, as I am told it has the highest average rating on Goodreads of any book in the Boxall 1001 lists, currently 4.64! Certainly it's not widely read, with less than a thousand ratings, and not easily/cheaply obtained.
My name really is George, and I was named after my grandfather, which fits in with this story well. Hopefully a fair number will be able to beg, borrow, or steal a copy and join in with their comments. I was fortunate to have a well-stocked university library nearby that gave me borrowing priviliges for whatever was on the shelf (no reserving), and they had one copy. How did you obtain your copy? We may have others join in later in the month I think, who needed more time to find a copy.
I am not quite finished reading it myself, but will soon. If you've begun or finished, how have you liked it so far? Is the best feature the prose, the characters or the story?


message 3: by Tatjana (new)

Tatjana JP | 293 comments I read Georg Henig yesterday and really enjoyed it. I was thinking to rate 4-5 stars, going for 4 stars, but still thinking over it.
It is really beautiful. Such a nostalgic story of friendship, love, faith and art. Sometimes funny and very nicely written it's focus is on characters not only of Georg Henig, a little boy Victor and his father, but all neighborhood around them. Although placed in Sofia during communist years, it deals a lot with faith, but also relationship between art and God, past times, tradition and what represents a real value in somebody's life.
I bough my copy from Amazon. It wasn't cheap but it was really a little treasure to enjoy. It is such a shame that it is 120 pages long, so I finished it in one day.


message 4: by Diane (new)

Diane  | 2042 comments How did you obtain your copy?

Borrowed it. Emory University in Atlanta has a copy.


If you've begun or finished, how have you liked it so far?

I loved this book! It is one of my favorites from the list so far.


Is the best feature the prose, the characters or the story?

Everything. The prose and the character development are both wonderful.

I found this to be a heart-warming story of love and loyalty, showing us that our family can extend to include important members not related to us by blood. It also emphasizes the importance of adhering to our values and beliefs even when the values of the society around us seem to be lacking.



message 5: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 4107 comments Mod
I got my copy through MnLink, I think mine actually came from Hennepin County Library. I thought is was the university but I think they used Hennepin instead. I did finish early as you cannot renew MnLink books. I enjoyed it a lot. I loved the characters and the prose. I think character more than prose because I love stories about older people and the bond between the young boy and the old man was a big part of the book for me.


message 6: by Chili (new)

Chili Hanson (chilipinkcat) | 59 comments I got my copy through MNLink also. Mine came from the University of St. Thomas. Yeah my alma mater! I just picked it up this afternoon.


message 7: by George P. (new)

George P. | 483 comments This was the best article I turned up in my search on Viktor Paskov. Here's the url if you want more biographical info.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vi...


message 8: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1381 comments I posted a follow up to Diane’s review on the 1001 review page.
I really loved this book.
The writing style and how the story unfolded worked really well with the character development. It all brought me along so that I too experienced the sadness and yet uplifting love contained in the story.
The translation must have been wonderful also as it never once pulled me out of the story.


message 9: by George P. (new)

George P. | 483 comments Here's the quick link to the review page for this novel which currently has Diane and Gail's comments:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 10: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 454 comments I bought my copy second hand through a third party vendor on Amazon. It's a good book in good condition and not really in print anymore, so I think it was worth the price.

I found it a lovely story. Bittersweet. It's funny, I read Cannery Row at approximately the same time, and while they writing style and the stories are quite different, they both have that humorous and kind way of portraying people on the margins of society.

At first I thought this book had a touch of magical realism about it, but then I figured it was "just" the recollection of a child's (and an old man's) imagination.

I do have a few questions of my own. (Spoiler alert) Perhaps not the kind that can be answered, but here they are:

Time frame - In the beginning we are told that Georg Henig dies on the day that the narrator finishes his 20th year. Victor's father seems to spend an awful long time building the sideboard, but it turns out it only takes two months. Most of the book seem to take part while Victor is 9-10 years old. Did Henig really last a decade in the old people's home? He dies at 90, but isn't he mentioned to be 90 before he goes to the home as well? He seems to be deteriorating very rapidly once he finishes the violin, and it really seems like he only lingered a few months.

The witnesses needed to establish Henig's identity. I realise that Victor's father thought Henig's students owed him, but I don't understand why it appears that they are the only ones he can appeal to. The doctor he fetches when they go to Henig the second time says he has known him for 30 years. Surely he and someone else from the orchestra could have vouched for his identity?

Manolcho - Why didn't someone take his axe away? I realise that he could have probably found a new one easily, but it doesn't seem like they're even trying. I'm a bit torn between finding the Manolcho episodes funny and finding them horrifying. Then again, he didn't actually kill anyone, for all of his nightly rampages.


message 11: by George P. (new)

George P. | 483 comments The only benefit of buying out of print books (or dvds as well) that are a bit pricey is that you can resell them for about the same amount of money and then you are out very little. You may even come out a little ahead sometimes. You just have to go to the trouble of doing the resale.

On the time line Leni speaks of, I had the same thought about being puzzled that Georg lasted that long at the old people's home. The book says Georg died the same day Viktor ended his 20th year, meaning his 20th birthday. Otherwise I don't remember any mention of his or Georg's age. If Viktor were 11 when Georg left, that would be nine years- seemed he was too feeble to last that long, I agree.
I think it does have just a touch of magical realism in the "shadows" of people in Georg's flat.
Some novels and films don't hold up to a lot of critical examination of their plot elements, but usually that's not much of a detriment if it's not in a main element of the story and you otherwise enjoy them. I thought the vivid characters and the writing style the main attraction to "A Ballad..", and the story mostly there to serve them.


message 12: by Jenni (new)

Jenni (sprainedbrain) | 71 comments I finished the book today... so good! It took me longer than I thought it would to read such a short book, but I found myself really taking my time and savoring the prose. As much as I loved the prose and the story, I think my favorite part are the wonderful characters. Georg and Tsar Victor have a place in my heart.

I also ordered my second hand copy from an Amazon third party seller. If anyone needs a copy to read, I would be happy to send it on.


message 13: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1985 comments Mod
I purchased my copy from Amazon new and it wasn't actually too expensive £12 which is only about £4 more than I would expect to pay for a new book.

If anyone in the UK still needs a copy let me know and I can send it on and share the love :)


message 14: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1985 comments Mod
I started this book yesterday and finished it today and I have to say it is a little gem of a novel and my rating is 4 stars.

I think there is magical realism with the shadow people, the talking wood, the way the musical instruments come alive and even the idea of God.

I loved the idea that a master craftsman can't make a perfect violin in 6 days so why expect the world that God created in 6 days to be perfect.

For me the characters are the best bits I love the way tsar Victor, his father and eventually his mother adopt Henig and try to look after his welfare even when he himself has given up.

I didn't find the timeline jarring as I just went with the flow of the novel, thinking about it now though the story did read as though it all happened rapidly so the times don't add up.


message 15: by Liz M (new)

Liz M | 194 comments This book was my before bed reading, so it took a while to read and perhaps my understanding of it suffered a little.

I too was puzzled by the opening chapter that seems to set up a different time frame and expectation for the story. But I loved the fantastical portraits of the neighbors and the elasticity of time as experienced by Victor.

I consider the shadows to be more that "just" the imagination of Victor and Georg. Magical elements may not be as fully integrated as the more well-known Garcia Marquez or Rushdie, but many of the Eastern European books (Garden, Ashes and The Street of Crocodiles) seem to have a dreamlike quality where imagination is as real as reality.


message 16: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1409 comments I was lucky that Tracy Stanford sent me a copy or I otherwise would have been unable to read this little gem. I had a few issues reading it on my ancient iPad and so ended up finishing it on my phone, which was not ideal, but at least I got to read it!
I am interested in Bulgaria but know so little about it. Friends of mine, who are wonderful photographers, moved there a couple of years ago and I have been intrigued with the architecture of Sofia and traditional houses in the countryside which they have posted in Facebook.

I loved the way it was written. I felt as though I could understand what life was like in 1950's communist Sofia. One aspect that puzzled me was that the family were so poor when the father was a musician. I would have thought that he would have had a reasonable salary.

The best feature for me was that the story was told through a young boy and his viewpoint was so believable. The reader is imagining more about what is happening in the relationship between his parents, for example, or the extraordinary goings on the the neighbourhood, than the narrator can understand, but it was pitched perfectly to be totally credible.

The story was an examination of what it means to live a good life and what legacy one might leave behind. The one sadness was that Georg Henig's beloved tools were unused by the narrator.


message 17: by Chili (new)

Chili Hanson (chilipinkcat) | 59 comments I received a copy from MnLinks from the University of St. Thomas. I started reading right away but stopped about half way through. It was making me too sad. I did finally finish it. I think at a different time I would have appreciated this much more. Georg's loneliness is heartbreaking. Even though Marin and Victor make him part of their family, he still seems so alone. At this point in time this is a three star read for me. I think I will reread it at a later date.


message 18: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 558 comments Pip wrote: "I was lucky that Tracy Stanford sent me a copy or I otherwise would have been unable to read this little gem. I had a few issues reading it on my ancient iPad and so ended up finishing it on my pho..."

Hurray! I'm so glad you liked this book!


message 19: by Sushicat (last edited Jul 20, 2018 01:33PM) (new)

Sushicat | 292 comments I was lucky to get my copy from the library. I had a bit the same experience as Chili - it took me forever to finally finish the book even though it is rather short (I actually started in April...). Though I loved it, at times it was unbearably sad.


message 20: by George P. (new)

George P. | 483 comments Sushicat, I'm glad you were able to get a copy and finally finish it. I thought it was great but I understand prefer their books to be uplifting, and don't like sadness in them.


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