Performance Publishing

Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths

March 31st, 2020 | Posted by David in


The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2021 Longlist

Republic of Consciousness Prize 2021 Longlist

The Goldsmiths Prize 2020 Shortlist

A The White Review Book of the Year 2020 (Daniel Medin)

Now republished by NYRB books in North America and available as an audiobook read by the author!

A novel of great wit and empathy, one that provides a deep insight into the composition of both classical music and historical literature through playful, inventive prose… By combining deep scholarship with a broad-minded, philosophical viewpoint, Griffiths has written a thought-provoking novel about possibility that pushes us to think hard about what we know and how we know it. He invites readers to join him in confronting the challenges of reimagining the past, and the spirit of spontaneity he offers is irresistible.
Michael Patrick Brady – The Boston Globe

The composer winds up in Boston. He brings his time, his temperament and his sense of democracy to us. But he can’t possibly fit in.
Mark Swed – Los Angeles Times

There is a sort of deranged, Borgesian brilliance in Griffiths’s minute descriptions of music that never existed; and, despite the profound learning underpinning it, the book doesn’t at all smell of the lamp. Like The Tomb Guardians, it goes about its metafictional task in an energetic, supple and highly readable way – and, like the new book, it is beautifully produced.
Keith Miller, The TLS

Paul stands shoulder to shoulder with the Thomas Mann of Dr. Faustus. Bypassing the eardrum, impressions flash in the mind, leaving traces impossible to distinguish from memories.
Matthew Gurewitsch – Beyond Criticism

Mr. Beethoven is a novel about interpretation: about how a writer might go about interpreting the life of one of the most well-known… composers who ever lived, but also about the role interpretation plays in creativity of all kinds. It is also, like much of Griffiths’s work, a riddling, playful, and often very funny investigation of literary form, and a demonstration of the unexpected liberation that can emerge from self-imposed constraints.
Jon Day – Music & Literature

A ride that compels you to join from the get go. It’s innovative, clever and has surprises at every chapter. This is a ‘what if’ tale like no other.
Robert Pisani – The Bobsphere

Where there are multiple interpretations, [Griffiths] explores the alternatives before settling on his choice. It is a bit like watching an organ transplant operation as space is made, the new part inserted and then everything is connected carefully to make it seem like the new organ has always been there.
Neil – Goodreads member

Few publishers can match HFP’s stratospherically high production standards.
David Collard


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In 1823 Beethoven received a commission to write a biblical oratorio in the United States. How could this have worked?*

* As Beethoven wrestles with his muse, and his librettist Rev. Ballou, he comes to rely on two women. Thankful, who conducts his conversations using Martha’s Vineyard sign language, and a kindred spirit: the widow Mrs. Hill. Meanwhile all Boston waits in anxious expectation of a first performance the composer, and the world, will never hear.

Variously admonishing the amateur music society and laughing in the company of his hosts’ children, the immortal composer is brought back to the fullness of life. Griffiths (former music critic: The New Yorker; The New York Times. Author: let me tell you; Modern Music And After) invents only what is strictly possible. His historiography weaves through the text in counterpoint, revealing the fragility of the traces he uses to give Mr. Beethoven seven more years.

Additional information

Weight 0.45 kg
Dimensions 19 × 13 × 3 cm

Artists Book, Paperback

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