Monday, 23 August 2021

“The Italian Teacher" by Tom Rachman - review

 “The Italian Teacher“ by Tom Rachman:

What follows if one allows ethics to undermine aesthetics? 

Does great art justifies monstrous selfishness?

Are artists people who deserve to have a different set of rules than the rest of us?

Is the suffering of family, lovers, children to be accepted as inevitable and excused by the, supposedly far greater value of art and do they not have the right to their own life?

Do other people’s opinions have anything to do with the value of our art? 

Do they have anything to do with the value of our selves?

The hypocrisies of the art world, questions about ambition, value and the nature of art, the age-old question of how monetary value correlates with artistic worth and above all the love of a son for his genius artist father, his struggle for love and affection, the heavy weight of obligation, duty, responsibility and loyalty: All these themes are masterfully spread out and examined in this rich, emotionally touching, sad, warm and surprisingly inventive novel. 


The narrative tracks the lifelong relationship between Pinch and his father, the great 20th-century artist Bear Bavinsky, a tremendous narcissist with tremendous charm, as he tries to unburden himself from his father’s overwhelming crushing ego and to reframe his own life. 

Great artists often come with big egos, they suck up the air and all energy in a room and from all those who surround them if given the chance. Living in the shadow of greatness is not an easy task. It can have dramatic and irreversible effects on a person’s growth. Which is exactly what happens to Pinch Bavinsky, the son.

Always eager to gain his father’s admiration and support the son tries to become an artist himself, starts learning the trade, follows the sparse hints and offered lessons his father gave him only to learn later that Father does not consider him artist material. Crushed he resolves to become an art historian to be of later service to his father’s fame. 

Meanwhile Pinch grows up, makes friends, has mostly discouraging affairs and finally falls seriously in love with a girl and just when it seems he has found fulfillment and happiness Bear, the father sabotages this relationship and subsequently the life of Pinch declines and he winds up as a teacher of Italian at a language school in London. 

Here Pinch as well as the narrative have reached a point where it is almost too sad to want to follow any longer. And exactly then the story picks up on a different momentum and leads to a finale that is both wonderfully ironic and profoundly touching. 

Over the years the balance of power between Pinch and his father begins to shift and in a rebellious act of defiance Pinch hatches a surprising scenario, ironic and touching, which will both secure his father’s legacy and at the same time save Pinch his own mark in the art world. This brilliant finale I found very uplifting and it left me smiling.

#robertfaeth, #painterinBerlin, #painting, #art, #bookblog, #bookreviews, #literaturelover, #poem, #poetry

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