Pefectly titled — The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

Learn to perceive the essence of a thing. Eyes are more likely to hinder you in that regard. They distract us. We live to be dazzled.

Book cover image from GoodReads

In the same spirit, Jan-Philipp Sendker writes THE HEART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS as the slow unveiling of a story. We meet Julia on her quest to find her father, who disappeared without a trace. She’s on her way to a small town in Burma, with a single love letter as her only clue. Stumbling into a café, jet-lagged and heart-broken, she meets a man who begins to tell her an “unbelievable” story.

What follows is part fable, part personal journey and all beautiful. It is impossible to write more about the book’s plot without giving too much away. But Julia is forced to suspend her disbelief as she finds her way toward the truth. We, as readers, must do that too.

Sendker’s style is unusual, especially the way he describes characters and landscape.

His features seemed so frank and naked to her. He was slender but not emaciated, wrinkled but not shriveled. His face was obviously the mirror of his soul. Not a trace of excess baggage.

He is also very careful to tell his story slowly, so different from Julia’s (and my) western approach to the world. By slowing down the book’s pace, he forces us to really understand the heart and soul of the novel. In this way, the book’s title also comes to make perfect sense.

The true essence of things is invisible to the eyes. Our sensory organs love to lead us astray, and the eyes are most deceptive of all…We believe that we see the world around us, and yet is only the surface that we perceive.

I wish that I had not seen the full truth of the ending coming so early on. I wanted to suspend my disbelief a little longer and be a bit more surprised. But, perhaps, this was not the author’s intention.

It’s odd, Julia, but a confession, a disclosure, is worthless when it comes at the wrong moment. If it’s too early, it overwhelms us. We’re not ready for it and can’t yet appreciate it. If it’s too late, the opportunity is lost…the door is already closed.

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