Margriet de Moor
The Kreutzer Sonata
An elegant novel about fidelity and infidelity
De Moor has built her latest novel around the Kreutzersonate by the Czech composer, Leos Janácek, who, in turn, based his string quartet on the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy. In Tolstoy’s story, a man and a woman are playing the sonata Ludwig van Beethoven composed for the French violinist and composer, Rudolphe Kreutzer. The two fall in love as they play, which poisons the husband’s mind with jealousy, so that he kills his wife.
This theme provides the main story of de Moor’s book. The main character is Marius van Vlooten, a blind music critic who, following a disastrous youthful love affair, has never fallen in love again. In a plane on the way to a master class in Bordeaux, he meets a young musicologist–the narrator of the story–who introduces him to the violist, Suzanna Flier. When the critic hears Suzanna play the violin part from Janáceks Kreutzer Sonata, he is entranced and falls in love with her. The violinist returns his love; they marry and are happy together for a long time. But all that changes when Van Vlooten begins to imagine that Suzanna is having an affair with the viola player in the quartet. The critic becomes so jealous that he attempts to murder her.
Van Vlooten cannot conceive that it is simply the act of making music that is making his wife happy, so he looks for alternative reasons. But can music really be divined and conferred with meaning? Is it not simply form? Significant in this respect is Van Vlooten’s blindness, which unmistakably intensifies his experience of music, but how apt are the words with which he communicates his feelings and how pure is his passion? Love, eroticism, jealousy and music;all are impenetrable enigmas, even if you unravel the meaning of Janáceks string quartet, as the narrator ultimately intends to do. De Moor employs a sensory approach to the story; her sensual style of writing enables the reader to hear, feel, smell and taste as they read, allowing The Kreutzer Sonata to become an intense experience.