The Late Harvest of Henry Cage
Die späte Ernte des Henry Cage is the German title of David Abbott’s first novel The Upright Piano Player. It has just been published, by DTV, and by the time of writing had rocketed to number 1 in the literature category on Amazon.de and to number 6 overall.
David Abbott was last month announced as one of the Culture Show’s Twelve New Novelists. The Upright Piano Player is the only first novel by a British writer to be published by MacLehose Press. With the novel yet to be released in America (where it will be published by Nan A. Talese), it seems that not even the sky could put a ceiling on Mr Abbott’s ascent.
It seems that the novel has been propelled to these giddy heights by an astounding review in Der Spiegel by Peter Henning. Both Henning and Patricia Reimann, Abbott’s German editor, say they have never seen anything like this before. Mr Abbott said simply that he was utterly speechless. The following are extracts from Henning’s review, translated by Katharina Bielenberg.
And here is 72-year-old David Abbott, another late-starter, whose dramatic first novel, just published in Germany as Die späte Ernte des Henry Cage (“The Late Harvest of Henry Cage”), makes most other novels emerging from England or the US seem rather dated. For Abbott, who has built his career and reputation as the founder of various advertising agencies and is today considered to be one of the UK’s distinguished admen and creative directors, has produced a work which offers pretty much everything that constitutes real, truthful literature: finely drawn figures plumbed to the very depths of their beings, unforgettable characters who, once encountered, will never be forgotten – coupled with a moving, unsentimental narrative which appears to have sprung from the centre of life itself.
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The most surprising aspect of this novel about the reflections of a solitary man to whom fate has dealt a sudden and painful blow is its style. The artistry with which Abbott – a hotshot who seems to have appeared on the British literary scene as if from nowhere – has managed to craft his unpretentious, haunting narrative appears as effortless as the skilfully engineered and only seemingly abrupt changes of pace which he gives to his story of Henry Cage, a man searching for happiness late in life.
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This is the prose masterpiece of an enlightened late-starter, which oscillates between anxiety and release, gravity and levity, wisdom and a childlike zest for life. It is also wonderfully entertaining.
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Born in London in 1938, David Abbott tells the story – in exceptionally precise, resonant images and sequences – of an unwilling self-assessment, an internal, painful audit of a life. In doing so he unsparingly discloses the hidden passions and fears of his hero, his inner struggles and his spiritual abysses. Die spate Ernte des Henry Cage is also a book about the gradual loss of memory and the attempt to retain it. And that, above all, is where its tremendous power lies.
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