Tuesday, July 1, 2014 |
A vivid evocation of Berlin and Paris during the Second World War, Half-Blood Blues centres around the disappearance of Hiero, a talented young black German jazz musician, at the hands of the Nazis in Occupied France. His friend and fellow musician, Sid, is still struggling to come to terms with Hiero's fate 50 years later. Half-Blood Blues is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.
Half-Blood Blues won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011. It was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize that same year and was a Canada Reads finalist in 2014. It was defended by Donovan Bailey.
See, we lay exhausted in the flat, sheets nailed over the windows. The sunrise so fierce it seeped through the gaps, dropped like cloth on our skin. Couple hours before, we was playing in some back-alley studio, trying to cut a record. A grim little room, more like a closet of ghosts than any joint for music, the cracked heaters lisping steam, empty bottles rolling all over the warped floor. Our cigarettes glowed like small holes in the dark, and that's how I known we wasn't buzzing, Hiero's smoke not moving or nothing. The cig just sitting there in his mouth like he couldn't hear his way clear. Everyone pacing about, listening between takes to the scrabble of rats in the wall. Restless as hell. Could be we wasn't so rotten, but I at least felt off. Too nervous, too crazed, too busy watching the door. Forget the rot. Forget the studio's seclusion. Nothing tore me out of myself. Take after take, I'd play sweating to the end of it only to have Hiero scratch the damn disc, tossing it in the trash.
From Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan ©2011. Published by HarperCollins Publishers.