What is truth? What is love? What is living, and what does it mean to truly live your life? These questions only brush the surface of inquires that Gint Aras makes in his latest novel The Fugue. A book about family, about belief, about the deepest, darkest corners of the human condition, The Fugue is an exploration of humanity on the highest level.
A fugue is defined either as “a polyphonic composition based upon one, two or more themes,” or “a period during which a person suffers from loss of memory, often begins a new life, and, upon recovery, remembers nothing of the amnesic phase.” Aras draws on these definitions both literally and figuratively throughout the whole of The Fugue. The novel weaves together multiple characters’ storylines and arcs so that they all intersect at various points throughout the novel. Coming together at the highest points of climax, jumping out of the woodwork to incite complete surprise, and slowly building to be easily foreseen, Aras does a fantastic job of intertwining each individual plot together into a cohesive, riveting and complete novel.
If you were to name a main character it would have to be Yuri Dilienko, who we meet just as he is being released from prison for the murder of his parents. Though Yuri might be considered the nexus around which the story revolves, Aras grants us access to many other characters’ minds; including, both of Yuri’s parents’, his lovers’, the great composer Lars Jorgensen, a local priest, and more. Each chapter focuses on a different character and each section dials in a specific point in time. Ranging from February 1940 to the summer of 2001, Aras forces us to grow, change and mourn with his characters as they do the same.
At any point in the novel you can hate, love, pity, and be terrified by any character who only a chapter ago you felt the exact opposite feeling for. Aras’ characters are dynamic in a way that only human beings are, with flaws so tragic readers can’t help but be reminded of their own tragic flaws and find sympathy for even the most damnable character.
The Fugue is a masterpiece of literary fiction that echoes novels like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Les Miserable and To the Lighthouse with its cross generational plotline and deep-seated narrative about the struggles, sadness and often futile nature of life. Glimpses of hope shine through at the rarest instances, and shreds of light are shined on certain characters who rise above the slog for moments in time, but overall The Fugue is a tale of trauma and the dark power of hatred.
Beautifully composed and entirely unforgettable, Gint Aras’ The Fugue is a must read for the year.
Available for purchase at your local bookstore, The Fugue was published in December of 2015 by Chicago Center for Literature and Photography.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.