At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past.
As Beethoven ultimately faces the realites of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.
“Soloist” first-person chapters written by Beethoven himself alternate with the orchestral voices of people close to this magisterial figure, people who loved him yet also had to endure his passions, eccentricities, quirks, obsessions, suicidal tendencies, and downright nasty behaviors.
Howard Jay Smith has written an astoundingly creative novel shaped in almost equal parts by the author’s rich imagination and linguistic showmanship. In Beethoven In Love; Opus 139, magical realism meets scholarly history; ribald humor and fanciful wordplay weave together the many tragic elements of Beethoven’s life, and an author at the top of his game takes readers on a fascinating post-mortem journey through the life of one of the greatest artists of all time.
A former Bread Loaf scholar who studied with John Irving, Toni Morrison, Tim O’Brien, and the late John Gardner, Howard Jay Smith has been a film and television screenwriter, producer, and studio executive, as well as an instructor at UCLA, and whose focus in now writing fiction. Beethoven In Love; Opus 139 is a novel to savor, to read with relish and astonishment, and to share widely.