A fascinating poetic journey into the mind and heart of a musical genius

What a wonderful and unusual idea, to write a biography of Beethoven, interlaced with fragments of autobiography, in poetry. Ruth Padel writes with true passion; her love for, and understanding of, the man and his music shine through each poem.Steven Isserlis, cellist

Out 30 January 2020

In 2020, Ruth Padel presents a major new work. Beethoven Variations, published in the 250th year of Beethoven’s birth, is a bold and passionate adventure in poetry and biography, a journey into the essence of creativity and its power to overcome suffering, and an intimate exploration of one of the most creative artists who ever lived. Beautiful, illuminating poems, drawing on private diaries, letters and memoirs, on Beethoven’s childhood, young manhood and anguished old age, followed by an elegant and succinct prose biography.

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Ruth Padel is an award-winning British poet, Professor of Poetry at King’s College London, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She was Chair of Judges for the 2016 T. S. Eliot Prize and Judge for the 2016 International Man Booker Prize. Her collections include The Mara Crossing on migration and immigration, Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth on harmony and the Middle East, and Emerald, on green in a dark time.

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Beethoven’s music encompasses the entire blinding spectrum of human thought and emotion, from violent to ethereal, chaos to sublimity. Ruth Padel’s poems capture that uncontainable spirit to an astounding degree, and preserve the primal shock of our first hearing.Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker, author of The Rest Is Noise, Listening to the Twentieth Century, and Listen to This
How to uncover from biographical details the mystery that is music? With precision, heart-breaking beauty and lyric insight, Ruth Padel performs a miracle: he comes alive before us, the son of a drunk, who became a genius, and lost everything, and found his way back. And here we are, following Padel’s own genius for composing the music of a story: generous, painful, tender, gorgeously lyrical. ‘You will find your heart shored up / by meeting the trapped brilliance of his eyes’ she writes. Indeed. Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic

“The music of loss, of losing. Bass clef.
High treble only once and in despair.
Then the new shocked calm of Is it true?
What it sounds like, going deaf. ” (‘Moonlight Sonata’)


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