“The bells” by Richard Harvell


“The intense and yearning story of an impossible love. Thanks to Harvell’s magic prose it seems as if the music described in the story is going to be alive”: I borrow these words from Historical Novels Review to begin this survey of mine of “L’esatta melodia dell’aria” by Richard Harvell whose original title is “The bells”, perfectly translated in Italian from English by Alessandro Storti and published in Italy by Editrice Nord.

It is the story of Moses, “a man born to catch the exact melody of air and give it to the world, a story which whispers, cries, sings, talks. A story which asks to be listened to”: for Moses, the protagonist of this splendid first book of Richard Harvell who was born in the USA, has studied English literature and lives in Basel in Switzerland with his wife and their children, the world is not made of objects, colors, smells but of sounds which will accompany him from the native village in the Swiss district of Uri along the numerous adventures he will live in his wandering and extraordinary life, from the San Gallo monastery to the Austrian capital, Vienna, and then to Venice and to many Italian theatres.

Moses will live tremendous grieves and splendid friendships, only one sweet love, Amalia, which will change his destiny, and a great fame, all of this historically located, by the fancy of the author, at the end of 1700 among Switzerland, Austria and Italy; Moses has a voice which will be, for him, a blessing and a punishment and the sounds will reveal to him the secrets of the world, Moses is a predestined like the biblical Moses, he too is rescued from water by two persons who will be the only true friends of his uncommon life, Nicolai and Remus, whose link is described with an absolutely extraordinary softness of tones.

As the protagonist of Suskind’s book understands the world though smells so Moses interprets it and give it to us disguised as sounds which seem so living that we are able to listen to them while we immerge ourselves in the story invented by him.