From the songs of Arab diva Umm Khultum on the banks of the Tigris to the strains of a young boy playing the violin for his mother in Melbourne, to the swing jazz of the nightclubs and cabarets of 1940s Baghdad, a fisherman playing a flute on the banks of the Mekong, and Paganini in the borderlands of eastern Poland…
Music weaves its way through each of these spellbinding stories. Each tale, each fragment of music, leads to Amal, the woman who saved her life by clinging to a corpse for twenty hours alone in the sea. Arnold Zable takes the reader on an intimate journey into the lives of people he met on travels over the last forty years.
These are tales aching to be told. Tales of hardship, of yearning and of celebration. Tales that span the globe, and bring us back to Melbourne to the powerful and heartbreaking story of Amal—her flight from Baghdad, her fears boarding the unseaworthy SIEV X, her survival when it went down, and her desire to have her story told.
The Dust of Life
The Music Box
A Chorus of Feet
The Partisan’s Song
The Ancient Mariner
‘The depths of human suffering and perseverance are conveyed through memory and music, as Zable travels through hearts and landscapes scarred by war. This book is a wonderfully complex, sad and beautiful read.’
‘This is a genuinely beautiful piece of work, history made poetry through graceful writing and a caring eye.’
‘A gifted storyteller, Zable unearths the hidden symmetry and arresting images that make these tales sing.’
‘In Violin Lessons, Zable displays the wisdom and kindness that has permeated all his works – the reason they are so loved.’
‘In Arnold Zable’s resonant new collection, Violin Lessons, we glimpse much and discover truth…Song and instrumental sound are included subtly in each of the stories to arresting effect…This is an edifying book. Basry says her life’s purpose is “to tell what happened”. Zable, through his stories, shows us why we need to listen.’