ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. A contemporary masterpiece. This book grapples with both light and darkness in a way that leaves the reader astounded, magic underscoring every sentence, creating a kaleidoscope of wonders.
Here is an excerpt from the chapter Radio:
Werner is eight years old and ferreting about in the refuse behind a storage shed when he discovers what looks like a large spool of thread. It consists of a wire-wrapped cylinder sandwiched between two discs of pinewood. Three frayed electrical leads sprout from the top. One has a small earphone dangling from its end.
Until now he has seen radios only in glimpses: a big cabinet wireless through the lace curtains of an official’s house; a portable unit in a miners’ dormitory; another in the church refectory. He has never touched one […]
Three weeks after finding the device, on a sun-gilded afternoon when perhaps every other child in Zollverein is outdoors, he notices that its longest wire, a slender filament coiled hundreds of times around the central cylinder, has several small breaks in it. Slowly, meticulously, he unwraps the coil, carries the entire looped mess downstairs, and calls Jutta inside to hold the pieces for him while he splices the breaks. Then he rewraps it.
‘Now let’s try,’ he whispers, and presses the earphone against his ear and runs what he has decided must be the tuning pin back and forth along the coil.
He hears a fizz of static. Then, from somewhere deep inside the earpiece, a stream of consonants issues forth. Werner’s heart pauses; the voice seems to echo in the architecture of his head.
The sound fades as quickly as it came. He shifts the pin a quarter inch. More static. Another quarter inch. Nothing.
In the kitchen, Frau Elena kneads bread. Boys shout in the alley. Werner guides the tuning pin back and forth.
He is about to hand the earphone to Jutta when—clear and unblemished, about halfway down the coil—he hears the quick, drastic strikes of a bow dashing across the strings of a violin. He tries to hold the pin perfectly still. A second violin joins the first. Jutta drags herself closer; she watches her brother with outsize eyes.
A piano chases the violins. Then woodwinds. The strings sprint, woodwinds fluttering behind. More instruments join in. Flutes? Harps? The song races, seems to loop back over itself.
‘Werner?’ Jutta whispers.
He blinks; he has to swallow back tears. The parlor looks the same as it always has: two cribs beneath two Latin crosses, dust floating in the open mouth of the stove, a dozen layers of paint peeling off the baseboards. A needlepoint of Frau Elena’s snowy Alsatian village above the sink. Yet now there is music. As if, inside Werner’s head, an infinitesimal orchestra has stirred to life.
The room seems to fall into a slow spin. His sister says his name more urgently, and he presses the earphone to her ear.
‘Music,’ she says.
~ ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE
PS – The creation of music, note by note and instrument by instrument, is a process words cannot capture, and yet this passage does, effortlessly. The same applies with a myriad other events and phenomena, all brought together to create a resplendent painting of unparalleled proportions.
A worthy Pulitzer prize winner.
From the bays of Pearl Coast,
Fish a ton of oysters, strike a shiny pearl.