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  • 18 de June de 2024
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El misterio Razumovsky

El misterio Razumovsky

El misterio Razumovsky

Cover. / Ediciones B

License Creative Commons


José del Rincón


Martín Llade: a powerful narrator

Following Lo que nunca sabré de Teresa, an excellent biographical novel about actress Teresa Ann Savoy, Martín Llade undertakes a formidable challenge: to write a lengthy historical and detective novel in which Ludwig van Beethoven plays the detective. He more than succeeds in this difficult endeavour. Most of the novel is written with elegant precision, but there are also numerous examples of true verbal craftsmanship.

El misterio Razumovski (Ediciones B, 2024, 651 pages) is a perfect blend of several genres. It is at once a historical novel, a detective story, a humorous novel, and a novel where music reigns supreme, allowing each reader to decide which aspect predominates. For those inclined to study the novel, the documentation is overwhelming, both musically and historically. However, it also allows for a more unprejudiced reading, where this erudition does not overwhelm the reader, and everything flows effortlessly. Such rigour does not contradict a boundless imagination in creating the fictional part, fitting it into 1814 Vienna, and constructing characters, most of whom are historical figures. Despite its length, the book is an easy read, with the action never faltering for a moment.

Unlike a poor novel about Bach published not long ago, in El misterio Razumovsky, everything that is not fictional is treated with historical fidelity. While the author of that other novel on the Cantor of Leipzig refers to an “inexhaustible bibliography” to encourage the reader to piece together the mess, Martín Llade adds a clarifying postlude to his book, explaining what happened to the main historical characters after the action concludes.

Other critics have noted that El misterio Razumovsky draws from detective novels of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they are correct. The peculiar duo of Beethoven and Anton Schindler is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and Watson in Conan Doyle‘s novels. Llade also creates successive suspects, akin to Agatha Christie‘s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, though I would argue that the author from San Sebastian is more subtle than the British writer in highlighting these characters. Additionally, Llade has learned from the best recent Scandinavian detective novels to avoid lengthy descriptions. Just as Henning Mankell or Stieg Larsson effectively set their novels in Stockholm or other parts of modern Sweden, Martín Llade perfectly recreates Metternich’s Vienna.

I risk exaggeration, but I couldn’t help thinking of Don Quixote when encountering a lengthy novel in which humour plays a significant role, with two main characters whose roles are reversed from the original Cervantes duo: here, it is the master and not the servant who resembles a carnivalesque, almost Bakhtinian Sancho Panza.

Speaking of characters, they are one of the novel’s most successful aspects. The information from the publisher highlights Beethoven’s prominence; Llade himself, to mislead, speaks of three protagonists in the character census preceding the novel: Beethoven, Schindler, and Razumovsky. However, Andrei Razumovsky remains a luxurious secondary character: the absolute protagonism of the novel is shared equally between the brilliant composer and the first-person narrator Anton Schindler. Starting from a rigorously true fact that Schindler was later the first and least truthful biographer of the deaf genius from Bonn, Llade constructs a character no less brilliant than Beethoven. Both protagonists are psychologically deep yet masterfully differentiated. In crafting his two main characters, Martín Llade is simultaneously Terence and Plautus.

The Basque writer is a master at integrating dissimilar elements naturally and fluidly. While Beethoven’s bad temper is the best-known aspect of his personality, in El misterio Razumovsky, the composer is the character who embodies a barbaric sense of humour that also spreads to other characters. Martín Llade constructs a detective Beethoven, endowed with great humour (without entirely losing his temper at times) and even occasionally tender, making the portrayal entirely believable. From almost nothing, the director of Sinfonía de la mañana creates the counterpart to his peculiar Beethoven: Anton Schindler, a complex character, sometimes boastful, sometimes pretentious, who undergoes diverse vicissitudes, occasionally somewhat forced, yet Llade, as a powerful narrator, ensures the result remains credible.

Just as the protagonist of Lo que nunca sabré de Teresa faces career adversities with good humour, and it is unclear how much of that humour belongs to Teresa Ann Savoy or the Basque journalist, in El misterio Razumovsky, Llade similarly adapts his characters to his style. There is a full range from subtle irony to broader humour. Curiously, there are no puns in the novel, despite these being the bread and butter of the jokes in Sinfonía de la mañana.

With the same mastery with which Martín Llade constructs his two protagonists, he delineates the secondary characters, who are extraordinarily effective types; two examples are Tsar Alexander I and Emperor Francis I of Austria, perfectly depicted with very few strokes. Llade even attributes common traits to certain nations, as seen with the peculiar Prussian delegation.

It is a fact that, in general, novels of recent years contain more music than those of earlier times. However, it will be hard to find another novel containing more music than this one, not only due to its length. Structured in four main parts corresponding to the four movements of a sonata form, each of the eighty chapters is headed by a movement or a work of Beethoven, which may or may not appear in the corresponding chapter or nearby chapters. In 1814, Beethoven was immersed in writing The Glorious Moment, Op. 136 (a commendable work not on par with his best compositions), and the book duly accounts for this. However, references to many other works by Beethoven and, less frequently, other composers are continuous in the fictional part of the novel, either because some characters play or sing these pieces or because they recall or discuss them.

El misterio Razumovsky is pure music, a joyous musical binge.


1 “You think you would be happy there. Well, don’t believe it at all. True happiness is not knowing how happy you are. You might think you lack ballrooms, cafés, and theatres here. But the ambition to live in that world has caused more ruin than fortune, and there is no greater poor man than he who believes he does not have enough to live on”, Beethoven tells the young Maria Schicklgruber on page 589. Swap the ballrooms, cafés, and theatres for inns and playhouses, and this dialogue could pass for any of the advice Don Quixote gives to Sancho in Cervantes’ immortal novel. By the way, unlike so many current Spanish novels, which in my modest opinion overuse the reflective style, El misterio Razumovsky contains little reflection, and it is very apt.

Source: educational EVIDENCE

Rights: Creative Commons

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