André Pogoriloffsky: The music of the Temporalists
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015 – Paperback, 171 pages, $18.40
“temporalism: the philosophical doctrine that emphasizes the ultimate reality of time instead of the reduction of time to a manifestation of the eternal.”
This definition from the Farlex online dictionary may, or may not, enable a cue to the themes, ambivalent conflicts and unfolding narrative of The music of the Temporalists by the Bucharest-born author and quantum physics philosopher André Pogoriloffsky. The book is part science fiction, part coy memoir and part music philosophy.
Structurally, this is a novel within a novel. Filmgoers of a certain age will note parallels to Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963) and Anthony Newley’s Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969.) Younger ones will find resonance from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. While these movies dealt in part with successful, younger artists experiencing creative blocks and questioning their work and personal lives, Pogoriloffsky’s novel presents a more middle-aged protagonist. In his fifties, the man by day manages an inherited pharmacy in Paris and also is an amateur musician. The story commences in April 2008 when the nameless protagonist falls asleep in an easy chair and is plunged into an elaborate, exotic dream about the music world --- concerts, compositions, composers, commentators, audiences and more. He wakes up two years later and writes a book about his dream, which of course is the one readers of The music of the Temporalists find themselves reading.
The premise is striking, even intriguing. However, the result is a rambling saga of free association and stream-of-consciousness writing which may only work for readers who are practising psychiatrists (and fairly patient ones, at that) or perhaps eccentric literary geniuses afflicted with Asperger's syndrome. Trivia and random details of every imaginable kind are released into the story like an atomic bomb dropping fallout, and continue for 170 pages of small print in a pale, slender font which will send many readers searching for a magnifying glass.
The dream begins at a concert in a small amphitheatre with an orchestra in which the protagonist “cannot find any recognizable musical instrument.” The audience does not seem “to belong to any human race that I know of.” The orchestra is an octet without conductor and with each instrumentalist “ideally placed to see his or her colleagues.” The music is judged to have been composed somewhere between 1950 and 2008: “What seemed really alien to me was the temporal universe through which all those microtonal pitches embraced the auditorium.” At the end of this enigmatic performance, some male audience members “stand up and shake their heads vigorously, looking at the performers straight into their eyes, the same way, ages before, in my teens, I was stared at on the street by gay males who, I can only guess, found me attractive… When the members of the orchestra leave the stage, I have time to notice the beauty of the women…” (Most readers won’t need to be a Freudian analyst to decipher these latter observations.)
The performance continues with a keyboard concerto for an instrument “resembling a piano with a thousand keys, each one no thicker than a few millimetres.” Listening to a concerto, featuring an older woman as soloist, the writer “realized for the first time that in this dreamworld (or was it a mere dreamworld?) musical sounds are meant to serve an extremely elaborated temporal fabric.” Next, a regular piano manufactured by Olof Grandfeldt, an instrument maker prominent during the first half of the 19th century, replaces the non-regular one and the female soloist returns for an encore, a work by Olivier Messiaen. Whilst the soloist at one point seems to be looking for the protagonist in the darkened audience, he is still mulling the earlier compositions which he considers could be the work of Antoni Gaudi, had Gaudi been a musician rather than architect. When the encore finishes, musicians and audiences alike turn their attention to the protagonist who then assumes he himself must be Messiaen. Next, a man in his late fifties introduces himself by the name Jean-Philippe, stating he is the protagonist’s guide.
“It is you that the public acclaims,” declares the guide (the cosmopolitan ‘bravos’ include even a Texas accent) though the protagonist soon understands he is not really Messiaen. He is then escorted to “a planted forest that strikes me because it looks cultivated like a garden”. Jean-Philippe begins talking with the protagonist and continues doing so for more than two years, i.e., a further circa 160 pages --- and all of this ensues merely within the book’s first six pages.
This saga, which also purports to be a textbook in the form of fiction, is sprawling and editorially chaotic. The amazon.com listing states: “As the book is self-translated, the author is seeking for a native English speaker willing to proof read it.”
If the author could not afford a skilled Romanian-to-English translator, I doubt he’ll have better luck finding a proof reader. To be frank, this self-published volume needs to be completely rethought and restructured by an experienced and patient editor, if it is to become something which could realistically engage any kind of reader, never mind achieve critical or commercial success. The author clearly has a strong, idiosyncratic thesis underlying his work; however, it painfully lacks the skills to organize and elaborate his vision with clarity or cohesion.
If there’s a possibility for The music of the Temporalists to accomplish something concrete, the tale arguably could work as a movie if the right director and writer/adapter were interested, though even this would require monumental amounts of very challenging effort. As noted, there are strong parallels to David Lynch (also a musician who has scored some of his films), and I’m being neither facile nor condescending in suggesting it could work in this context, perhaps even brilliantly.
Charles Pope Jr.