Synopses & Reviews
Now in paperback, “Wunderkind is a gift for all the senses. Nikolai Grozni’s shimmering, visual, and visceral prose unfurls like music, as if a baby grand served as his infernal typewriter”
Brash, brilliant fifteen-year-old Konstantin is a world-class pianist of exceptional sensitivity whose rage at Soviet oppression threatens to destroy him. At once intelligent and arrogant, funny and despairing, compassionate and cruel, he exults in his rebellions: drinking and smoking in the attic of the music school, having careless sex with different girls while pining for a mercurial violin virtuoso, and refusing to participate in Party pomp and ceremony. Through it all, Konstantin plays the piano with transporting passion. The instrument is both his refuge and the thing tethering him to a world he cannot abide—and, if he can avoid getting kicked out of school, it could also be his chance to escape the totalitarian regime. Increasingly desperate and reckless, Konstantin struggles toward adulthood in a society where expression of any kind can come at terrible cost.
Like Gary Shteyngart and Jonathan Safran Foer, Nikolai Grozni—himself a native of Bulgaria who was a world-class pianist in his youth—sets an electrifying portrait of youthful longing and anxiety against a backdrop of tumultuous, historic world events. Hypnotic and headlong, Wunderkind’s brilliant marriage of eloquent adolescent turmoil and rage over government and social oppression makes for a newly urgent portrait of the bleak Soviet landscape of fear, surveillance, and scarcity.
Fifteen-year-old Konstantin is a brash, brilliant pianist of exceptional sensitivity in the bleak and controlled environment of Sofia, Bulgaria, in the 1980s, struggling toward adulthood in a society where honest expression often comes at a terrible cost. Confined to the militaristic Music School for the Gifted for most of each day and a good part of the night, Konstantin exults in his small rebellions—smoking, drinking, and mocking Party pomp and cant at every opportunity. Through it all, Konstantin plays the piano with inflamed passion, transported by unparalleled explorations of Chopin, Debussy, and Bach, even as he is cursed by his teachers’ numbing efforts at mind control. Hypnotic and headlong, Wunderkind’s dazzling portrait of youthful turmoil gives us a stunningly urgent, exquisitely observed, and wonderfully tragicomic glimpse behind the Iron Curtain at the very end of the Cold War while reminding us of the sometimes life-saving grace of great music.
About the Author
Nikolai Grozni began training as a classical pianist at age four, and won his first major award in Salerno, Italy, at the age of ten. Grozni's acclaimed memoir Turtle Feet follows his four years spent as a Buddhist monk studying at the Institute of Tibetan Dialectics in Dharamsala, and later at a monastery in South India. Grozni holds an MFA in creative writing from Brown University. He lives with his wife and their children in France.