This bestseller and winner of every major literary award in Taiwan is an elegiac novel about love and loss, broken dreams and desolate hearts—and music: "A delightful read."—Ha Jin
A widower grieving for his young wife. A piano tuner concealing a lifetime of secrets. An out-of-tune Steinway piano. A journey of self-discovery across time and continents, from a dark apartment in Taipei’s red-light district to snow-clad New York.
At the heart of the story is the nameless narrator, the piano tuner. In his forties, he is balding and ugly, a loser by any standard. But he was once a musical prodigy. What betrayal and what heartbreak made him walk away from greatness?
Long hailed in Taiwan as a “writer’s writer,” Chiang-Sheng Kuo delivers a stunningly powerful, compact novel in The Piano Tuner. It’s a book of sounds: both of music and of the heart, from Rachmaninoff to Schubert, from Glenn Gould to Sviatoslav Richter, from untapped potential to unrequited love. With a cadence and precision that bring to mind Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, and Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, this short novel may be a portrait of the artist as a “failure,” but it also describes a pursuit of the ultimate beauty in music and in love.
About the Author
Howard Goldblatt is a literary translator of numerous works of contemporary Chinese fiction from mainland China and Taiwan, including Nobel Prize–winner Mo Yan, five of whose works are published by Arcade (The Garlic Ballads; The Republic of Wine; Big Breasts and Wide Hips; Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out; Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh). He has also translated works by Liu Zhenyun (I Did Not Kill My Husband; The Cook, the Crook, and the Real Estate Tycoon; Remembering 1942, which are published by Arcade), Huang Chunming (The Taste of Apples), and Chen Ruoxi (The Execution of Mayor Yin). He taught modern Chinese literature and culture for more than a quarter of a century. He lives in Lafayette, Colorado.
"An elegant novel, told with restraint and acute perceptions. A delightful read."—Ha Jin
"So much is packed into this compact and surprising novel: a complex story of genius, madness, and thwarted desire and, beyond that, a deep exploration of the tension between craft and the pursuit of fame. The Piano Tuner is about more than music—it’s about the choices one makes in becoming an artist."—Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Green Island
"The Piano Tuner is as meticulous in its excavation of loneliness as it is in its exploration of music. I was completely pulled into the narrative as it peeled back layer after layer, exposing the interiority and secrets of the beguiling piano tuner. This book is a quiet masterpiece."—Dur e Aziz Amna, author of American Fever
“A rare masterpiece . . . Kuo has told a spellbinding story about love, obsession, loss, and the inscrutable power of music.”—David Der-wei Wang, Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University
"Kuo writes with sharp erudition--about music, history, instruments, geography--creating a multivocal repertoire spotlighting displaced love and unfulfilled opportunity. . . . Lyrically translated by the revered duo Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin."—Shelf Awarenesss
"Chiang-Sheng Kuo’s novel The Piano Tuner explores the accord and dissonance between sounds and souls through language. . . . The mood of love transcends the language barrier like music, for the emotional atmosphere of the book is infused with hybrid aesthetics that invoke this sentiment."—Asymptote
“The Piano Tuner captures subtle and almost inexpressible emotions, calling on the reader to resonate, to hear both the rhythm of the piano and the voice of the heart.”─Jiao Yuanpu , author of Amusement in Black and White and Hearing Chopin
“Implicit but tense, this text is like superb fingering interpreting a lonely and poignant love song. . . . It is a transcendence of novel-writing skills.”—OPENBOOK Best Book Prize citation (Taiwan)
“[In The Piano Tuner], through the filtering and precipitation of time, love crystallizes yet is restrained. With it comes an equal portion of loneliness, accumulating vastly and released slowly, which is refreshing.”─Zhu Tian-wen, winner of the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature