“All my questions must go unanswered. But when I heard – on the very day I had taken the box with the photograph of Maria Emilia from my father’s silent house and looked that young woman in the eyes for the first time – when I heard, on that day of all days, during the drive home, the andantino from Rosamunde playing on the car radio, it gave me such a peculiar shock that I almost drove off the road. My heart started pounding so hard that the blood thumped in my temples, and when I parked by the roadside and opened the tin box again with trembling hands and held the photograph between my fingers, something rose up inside me, as if following the lead of my dead grandfather, who seemed to possess my body like a tender demon and draw me completely into his emotions, into the world that had always been closed to me, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t sit there with a lump in my throat, biting my lower lip, as the voice on the radio repeated the title of the barely seven-minute andantino and moved on to Paganini, a composer whose virtuoso antics I have always abhorred.”

Stefan Hertmans, War and Turpentine

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