Fugitive is a rare lyrical joy.
Though a glance inside its covers, with its narrow columns of fragmentary observations, broken by hand-drawn infinity symbols might frighten off a reader un-used to such conventions, it would be a loss to them to walk away without diving into this actually very accessible text.
The nonfiction narrative is formed via a perfectly controlled fluid stream of notes, ghosts and characters tracing synaptic flashes of observation, story, memory and myth. It sketches temporalities and continents, the subject matter moving deftly through dazzling segues that move from wryly funny to tragic and back again within the space of a breath. Only a certain kind of writer, within exactly this kind of form can write work that is so brilliantly and movingly performative and kinetic.
Tedeschi is a noted concert pianist, and much of Fugitive is drawn from the knowledge inherent in the writer’s grasp, both what he has learned and what his body has intuitively gleaned from his work as a musician. The title is drawn from a rough translation of a Russian word – Mimolyotnosti – as (inexactly) ‘fleeting’, the word in its muteable senses of translation appears as a motif throughout the text. It is the imperfect nature of the work of translation that so informs this narrative, via languages and the flow of people across time, circumstance and oceans.
I don’t think you can write a review that encapsulates a work like this. It is more that you must describe the ways that it makes you feel, and your compulsion to take out a pencil, to underline, to write notes in the margins so that you might remember that in this way of writing, Tedeschi has made you recognise something about the nature of grief and resilience, about love and humour that you haven’t seen captured so beautifully before. Fugitive probes the breathtaking limits of our fragility, while simultaneously limning the ways in which we miraculously survive and know joy and sorrow, and everything in between.
It’s also a joyful rumination on language, and the lyric form allows for a simulation of the processes of memory, the non-linearity of thought and recall. Writing in this way allows Tedesechi to cover so much of things that wouldn’t otherwise have been allowed space or opportunity in a more traditional essay or memoir. To conclude, yes it’s literary but it’s a quick, pleasurable read, or ride, and this is a book that one would never put aside once begun. And it’s a book that you want to go back and read again the moment you’ve finished, such is its charm.
(This review was first published on Goodreads)