J SS Bach takes music and the Holocaust as its theme. In 1938, Otto Schalmik, a 19-year-old musician from a Jewish family in Vienna, is arrested by Nazi police. Transported to Dachau, he is summoned to the home of the camp’s Adjutant, Birchendorf, who forces him to scrub the floors and play Bach on a priceless looted cello.
In 1990s California, Otto, now a world-famous composer, and a young Australian musicologist, Rosa, discover the ways in which their lives are linked through music and history.
Weaving together the stories of three generations of women from both sides of Germany’s 20th century horror story, J SS Bach explores the ongoing impact of war and the power of music as a transcending force to heal and rebuild lives.
Here’s an essay on the makings of J SS BACH, published in Granta’s ‘Notes on Craft’ series
Paul Simon concludes his review in The Morning Star with the sentence: ‘A masterful novel’.
Sarah Birch gives the book a fine and considered review in Hackney Citizen, noting is as ”a subtle novel that treads delicately around identity, values and life purpose.’
And here’s Martin’s interview on J SS Bach with Morning Star.
BBC Radio 3’s FREE THINKING featured an interview between Anne McElvoy & Martin, from 13′ in here. A brief excerpt from the interviewer Ann McElvoy: ‘Music is at the heart of this novel and all the contested relationships in it. I noticed, as someone who loves classical music, that the way the composition and performance is threaded through is very detailed.’
‘Most moving and impressive. In J SS Bach Martin Goodman manages an original stance on what has become all too familiar – the ‘Holocaust’ novel – and has created something really worthwhile as a result. It is beautifully structured and has a distinctive and haunting tone. Altogether a very clever and memorable piece of work.’ – Simon Mawer, author of The Glass Room
‘Looks squarely at the horrors of the 20th century, and old divisions that still fester…This is one powerful story that dares to hope, and shows the way to love.’ – Bonnie Greer
And here’s a touching and lyrical response to the book from Marina Mahler, granddaughter of the composer and founder and president of the Mahler Foundation.