Taiwanese Author’s English Debut is a Musical Journey of Self-Discovery

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The Piano Tuner by Chiang-Sheng Kuo

What’s it About?

This bestseller and winner of every major literary award in Taiwan is a poignant novel about love and loss, broken dreams and desolate hearts — and music.

“Anyone with enough experience can make up stories, but only those who truly understand the world have something meaningful to say.”

That quote, from a Nobel literature laureate, is used by a nameless piano tuner to describe what defines for him a widower grieving for his young wife in The Piano Tuner (Arcade), a novel by Taiwanese author Chiang-Sheng Kuo and his first published in English that will remind readers of Kazuo Ishiguro, Jennifer Egan, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Haruki Murakami.

This bestseller and winner of every major literary award in Taiwan, translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Lichun-Lin, is an elegiac novel about love and loss, broken dreams and desolate hearts — and music.

Portrait of a Grieving Piano Tuner

A widower grieving for his young wife. A piano tuner concealing a lifetime of secrets. An out-of-tune Steinway piano. A journey of self-discovery across time and continents, from a dark apartment in Taipei’s red-light district to snow-clad New York.
At the heart of the story is the nameless narrator, the piano tuner. In his forties, he is balding and ugly, a loser by any standard. But he was once a musical prodigy. What betrayal and what heartbreak made him walk away from greatness?
Long hailed in Taiwan as a “writer’s writer,” Chiang-Sheng Kuo delivers a stunningly powerful, compact novel. It’s a book of sounds: both of music and of the heart, from Rachmaninoff to Schubert, from Glenn Gould to Sviatoslav Richter, from untapped potential to unrequited love. 

Reminiscent of Other Literary Greats

With a cadence and precision that bring to mind Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, and Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, this short novel may be a portrait of the artist as a “failure,” but it also describes a pursuit of the ultimate beauty in music and in love.

The writing is magnificent. Consider this opening:

“In the beginning, we were souls without bodies. When God planned to give us souls a physical shape, we refused to enter into a concrete form that would fall ill and grow old, obstructing our free passage through time and space. God came up with a solution by having angels play enchanting music.”

“We souls were so spellbound by the music we wanted to hear it more clearly, which was possible only through one channel, the human ear. God’s trick worked. And we souls gained a physical body.”

Of The Piano Tuner, OPENBOOK Best Book Prize says, “Implicit but tense, this text is like superb fingering interpreting a lonely and poignant love song … It is a transcendence of novel-writing skills.”
“The Piano Tuner captures subtle and almost inexpressible emotions, calling on the reader to resonate, to hear both the rhythm of the piano and the voice of the heart,” says Jiao Yuanpu, author of Amusement in Black and White and Hearing Chopin.

About Chiang-Sheng Kuo:

Chiang-Sheng Kuo is one of the most exciting storytellers and prose stylists in Taiwanese literature today. He has written a number of novels, essay collections, and plays, of which The Piano Tuner is the first to be published in English. The Piano Tuner was a bestseller and swept every major literary award in Taiwan, including the 2021 United Daily Literature Award, 2020 Taiwan Literature Golden Award, and 2020 Openbook Book of the Year Award as well as other honors. Chiang-Sheng Kuo earned a Ph.D. in drama from New York University and teaches in the Department of Language and Creative Writing at National Taipei University of Education. He lives in Taipei.

The Piano Tuner by Chiang-Sheng Kuo

Publish Date: January 3, 2023

Genre: Fiction, Romance

Author: Chiang-Sheng Kuo

Page Count: 168 pages

Publisher: Arcade

ISBN: 1956763414

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