The other day I started reading The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg. I had seen it on a library display shelf and while not recognizing the author’s name I did remember reading Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which is also mentioned on the front cover- a subtle prompt to the memory to make us choose this book to read.
What a strange book this is turning out to be. I’m having trouble grasping the story-line but Peter Hoeg’s fantasy-cum-thriller really does make you think of the place of sound and music in our more ordinary lives. So when it rained I closed my eyes and listened. Usually it’s just heavy rain or light rain, but this time I found I could focus on the different components of the rain sound. There was the tiled roof overhead which was a different sound to the noisier rain on the flat roof behind me and a quieter bounce on the flat roof in front of me . The back door was open and there were different sounds from the rain hitting a variety of textures, each to its own musical note, all blending into something that experience told me was heavy rain sound
Then the next day I sat in a café with a book and a coffee but this time I didn’t open the book straight away. I just listened, and I was listening to sounds that wouldn’t normally register with me. I would be so absorbed in my book that I would be oblivious to any noise around me.
So what did I hear ? Nearby four ladies talked in voices which had a strong contralto emphasis while from further away came a man’s voice, one with less variation and in a tenor tone. It was providing a fairly steady line, an X-axis with the female voices forming curves dashing up and down through it. You could have written music to it. Question. Answer. Laugh. Anecdote. Cup hitting saucer. Chair moving on floor. Little cough. Waitress voice. The beat came from the softened, amplified, background music ; the tympani from the soft kitchen clatter and underneath it all the muffled rise and fall of traffic noises from behind the glass windows. These sounds weren’t intrusive, But they WERE there. Perhaps we need some café music to fit them, a Cafe Coffee Suite, with different movements as the customers change, Disney handled rain music beautifully with Drip, Drip, Drop Little April Shower in his film Bambi.
So apart from the music how much can I learn about Peter Hoeg the person from this book? What sort of person is Peter Hoeg? I would say completely different to my last read, David Mitchell, who tells his tales with an imaginative use of language and sense of fun. But I read David Mitchell in his native English whereas I rely on a translator to read a Peter Hoeg story. I wonder if this makes a difference.
Nevertheless I thank you Peter Hoeg. I’ll do my best to understand your story.