Jean Christophe, Part IV – Revolt, by Romain Rolland

One of the good things about reading these multi-volume novels so slowly, is that you’ve no idea any longer what happened in any of the previous parts. I think at some point Christophe (or possibly Christoph, since we’re in Germany) fell in love with a woman, and had a platonic friendship with another boy. Anyway, by now he’s grown up and become a (classical) composer; and has started having his pieces put on by local orchestras, and even at times being respected for them.

The trouble is though that Christoph has ideas about what constitutes good music, and this includes nothing in the contemporary world, and nothing that anybody else seems to like (where have we heard this before?); and this leads to Christoph showing only contempt to the entire population of whatever German town on the French border it is he’s living in. Naturally this only manages to alienate him from everybody; and so they stop playing his music and his career grinds to a halt. All this is fairly amusing; and I can’t help feeling it’s intending as some sort of warning. (Why doesn’t Christoph just play the game a bit more? Give a few good reviews to works he’s maybe not really so enthusiastic about? Why does he just have to keep being stubborn and saying what he thinks about everything?).

Eventually he decides the only solution is to leave Germany for the promised land of Paris. Unfortunately, this means leaving his mother, whom he loves, and he can’t bring himself to do this. Luckily, however, Rolland manages to contrive a deus ex machina ending in which he starts an affray with a solider, and has to escape Germany under fear of arrest. – Will the people of Paris prove any more pleased with his criticism? We’ll see in the next episode.

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