The novel Maestro, by Peter Goldsworthy is a beautifully crafted novel dealing with the tragic gulf between talent and genius, between the real and the spurious. Good literature, however, is often judged not only by what is written, but also the way it is written. Reflecting this criteria, Maestro is well written, perfectly contrasted and thus an excellent example of a good piece of literature. Goldsworthy has achieved this thorough his character development, utilization of the settings and use of language.
The novel begins in Darwin in 1967 and traces Paul’s life through his childhood to 1977. During this time he travels to Adelaide, through Europe and ends up settling in Melbourne. The central concern of the novel “Maestro” is definitely the growth to maturity of Paul. The issues which arise in the novel, such as music, relationships, love, and betrayal, all contribute to lead to his developement to understanding. These issues portrayed in the commencement of the novel is what entices and sustains the reader to continue.
The different settings in Maestro play a significant role in the structure of the plot and the development of its characters. The novel is mostly set in Darwin, a place described as ‘wet’, ‘moist’ and ‘humid’. The piano practice room is described as dark, with bright sunlight outside. This can be seen as to symbolize the repressed feelings of Keller. These settings allow music to be an on-going and interweaving motif throughout the novel, which is also the most important one.
Maestro is a novel which primarily focuses on the study of human relationships. Considering such, characters within the text are very unique and differ in personalities. On the surface, it is a study of two people, Paul and Keller – a complex portrait of different yet similar individuals. Paul’s central relationship with Keller changes as he matures and begins to understand his teacher. Their relationship can be viewed as both enriching and destructive for Paul. Perhaps causative of the close relationship between Paul and Keller is the symmetry of their personalities. Both are clever but flawed characters, able to spot the weaknesses and strengths of the other. Both are egotists, both fail missions which they cherish in their heart of hearts, yet both have the virtues of honesty and high ideals, and both are redeemed by love.
Music is the central theme to the novel. A love of and an involvement in music are shared by most of the characters. The novel is rich with musical references, imagery, rhythms and history. It is important to recognize the significance of music to Paul and Keller as individuals as well as in their relationships with each other and their world. It is necessary to understand that music is central to both main characters in the novel and the author himself. Music is not seen just as one of the great art forms, but as one of the ways by which people define themselves.
Betrayal is sprinkled throughout the novel in different forms. Paul betrays Bennie to be friends with the bullies; the Nazis betray Keller. Keller leaves Vienna; Paul leaves Darwin. In a way, Paul and Keller betrayed one another: Keller shows Paul artistic perfection and his flaws, while Paul half-heartedly attempted to reach the perfection, but then gives up and turns away with self-satisfaction, only to realize when it’s too late that he’ll never be perfect. By the end of the novel, Paul learns about his imperfection at music, about love, and about reality, and he finds himself with a lack of success; his life centred around music, but never cared enough or was too proud to reach perfection. he betrayed his own potential for “love”.
Goldsworthy’s use of language is a remarkable one in the novel. At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to a young, arrogant, smug, self-congratulatory boy who was proclaimed to be a musical prodigy by his parents. Paul felt that he was too good to be taught by Herr Keller, when in fact it was because he felt belittled by him. This arrogance is shown when Herr Keller finally lets him play the piano on their 8th lesson. “He fossicked among his own music for a few moments, finally emerging with a copy of “The Children’s Bach”. I played that years ago,” I protested. “You are too proud to play it again?” “It’s easy.” “…Bach is never easy.” The fact that Paul felt that Bach was “too easy” shows his arrogance, but with Herr Keller’s response, he is put in his place and must re-evaluate himself.
Goldsworthy’s has successfully created a story, where he has perfectly demonstrated his cartoon-like world. His use of relationships, settings, themes and issues has helped him with his illustration. Maestro is a good piece of literature, and the way it was written was enjoyable.