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The Farewell Symphony Paperback – 28 May 1998

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (28 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099768011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099768012
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 69,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A work of singular accomplishment" (Sunday Times)

"A writer blessed with a more elusive gift, and it should probably be called wisdom" (Daily Telegraph)

"Disturbing... but with the kind of salvation that genuinely good writing can give" (Observer)

From the Inside Flap

Following "A Boy's Own Story (now a classic of American fiction) and his richly acclaimed "The Beautiful Room Is Empty, here is the eagerly awaited final volume of Edmund White's groundbreaking autobiographical trilogy.
Named for the work by Haydn in which the instrumentalists leave the stage one after another until only a single violin remains playing, this is the story of a man who has outlived most of his friends. Having reached the six-month anniversary of his lover's death, he embarks on a journey of remembrance that will recount his struggle to become a writer and his discovery of what it means to be a gay man. His witty, conversational narrative transports us from the 1960s to the near present, from starkly erotic scenes in the back rooms of New York clubs to episodes of rarefied hilarity in the salons of Paris to moments of family truth in the American Midwest. Along the way, a breathtaking variety of personal connections--and near misses--slowly builds an awareness of the transformative power of genuine friendship, of love and loss, culminating in an indelible experience with a dying man. And as the flow of memory carries us across time, space and society, one man's magnificently realized story grows to encompass an entire generation.
Sublimely funny yet elegiac, full of unsparingly trenchant social observation yet infused with wisdom and a deeply felt compassion, The Farewell Symphony is a triumph of reflection and expressive elegance. It is also a stunning and wholly original panorama of gay life over the past thirty years--the crowning achievement of one of our finest writers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 23 May 2002
Format: Paperback
The third and final volume of White's autobiographical trilogy, and, in my opinion, the least achieved one. Too many characters, too much adventures, turn some moments of these book a kind of a broken hearts' catalogue, with no density whatsoever.
The good point is: even when he is not so good, White's writing is delicious and amazing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I, Melachi ibn Amillar, being of unsound mind and body, did read Edmund White's book "The Farewell Symphony" (1997), since I liked the title, finishing it in August 2013. It is the story of a man whose main if not only interest throughout the 1960s-80s appears to be other men, and in large numbers. The author never uses one word when he can compose a nicely balanced paragraph instead, and appears greatly concerned with surface effect, referring to high art, philosophy, foreign languages and cultures as though wandering through a great museum, examining the paintings, identifying their schools, and then forgetting them. Like an American who has just completed a Western Civilization course, in fact. There is, to my mind, little depth of philosophy or even psychology. It is hard to imagine so many people can have lived such disassociated lives. As a consequence, there is no plot and not much intentional structure, and the sections about Italy and Paris should have been left out. There is one joke, on page 5 (of 504), though it is quite a good one. They all die at the end, in rather few pages, and this is quite sad, like Moby Dick.
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Format: Paperback
As a young man Edumnd White comes to terms with the gay society of New York and to boyfriend leaving him. He travels to Rome and to Paris pursuing his desire to be published. He is in the mist of the gay promiscualility and loves it. He is one of the Clones of the city. As he becomes more successful he realises that he doesn't really know what he wants. He ends up looking after his nephew and his girlfriend with his own boyfriend in the same flat. He moves to europe and meets the love of his life. But in the mist of the Aids plauge he dies. Many of Edumnds friends also die and he is left positive watching them leave him, knowing he has not long left.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read the first two books of the trilogy with less and less energy and interest. Nevertheless, the first book was satisfying - its flaws were compensated by its qualities. In this volume however, only the flaws are left.

The writing is sometimes clever, but it doesn't make up for all the times when it's pompous, affected, nothing more, I regret to say, than intellectual wanking. The author goes from place to place (New York, Paris, Italy) and from character to character without making any point. Of course, one does not *have* to make a point, if the characters are entertaining and the scenes thrilling. This is not the case here. We just follow this insipid self-loathing and mysoginist young gay man whose only quality is to have friends that are better than him, and hear about his constant changing moods, his failures and his tedious sex life.

This book seems like a self-published book. As if it hadn't been edited: Pages and pages of uninteresting, irrelevant details and facts and events that could and should have been cut out. The only interesting moment of the book is the death of his friends - it is, indeed, moving. But then again, how hard is it to be moving when one is talking about aids? Nothing to be proud of.

In conclusion, an overrated book from an overrated author, whose success symbolizes the problem of gay litterature: There's so little of it that it doesn't take much to make a "classic"... In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8de1e1ec) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8df6f78c) out of 5 stars One Violinist Remains... 24 Aug. 2002
By B. Morse - Published on
Format: Paperback
White chose the title to this novel from Haydn's The Farewell Symphony, in which, as the musical piece nears conclusion, the musicians leave the stage, one by one, until there is a sole violinist remaining, who finishes the work that so many others began.
In White's novel, we are taken on a tour of the protagonist's (White himself) 30's, 40's, and 50's as he climbs from unknown author to celebrated chronicler of gay life. Along the way, White bares his soul through his no-holds-barred sexual confessions, as we see him interract with friends, lovers, and back-alley liaisons.
Beginning post-Stonewall, and culminating in the AIDS crisis we witness White in many scenarios: best friend, object of desire, live-in lover, and even surrogate parent. White envelops each role with his particularly magical brand of prose, sentiment, and bravado, that is sometimes shocking, sometimes sad, but always entertaining.
As the novel carries on, and reaches the now 20 year old beginning of the AIDS epidemic, we see the significance and poignancy of the title, as the disease ravages the ranks of White's friends, and leaves him the one violinist remaining to chronicle their lives, as they intertwined with his own.
From backrooms to bedrooms, from parking lots to Paris, with stops in New York, Venice, and Morrocco along the way, White delivers another triumph in chronicling his life, and what began as A Boy's Own Story becomes the life of a man.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8df6f7e0) out of 5 stars The best Edmund White so far. Accomplished. Moving 15 Jun. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the most moving and most accessible of White's novels. The subject matter - the author's relationships, the intellectual and sexual and emotional aspects of which are dealt with - transcend his own circumstances, so that there is a universality with which a reader of any age, gender or sexuality can identify. The language is smoother and more simplified than in his previous works, so that the reader is swept along and not mentally hampered by imagery which clogs rather than enhances meaning. (A shortcoming of some of the previous works). The fluidity of the construction is masterly. Autobiographical novels should be distinguished from autobiography and it is the author's privelege to play with time-scales, to use flashbacks and juxtaposition of events to enhance the effect. There is a seamlessness which enables the reader to enjoy the flow of the narrative. There is no sense of this being a `plotted' novel with a rigid plan, an unobtrusiveness which is a tribute to Edmund White's skill. Finally, the anguish caused by the succession of deaths due to AIDS of his friends and lovers is unbearably sad. The book ends appropriately with an aching inconclusiveness, conveying the sense of waste for which there is no answer.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the finest books ever written - and I have read a lot of books. Not for those of a moralising or piously nervous disposition, or for those with a tragically short attention span. You don't have to emulate Mr White's life in order to be the beneficiary of his breathtaking writing skill. 'The Farewell Symphony' is a work of art.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8df6fee8) out of 5 stars A lucky pick... 2 Oct. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
While shopping with an ex-lover of mine I found the Dutch print of this book. Bought it... read it... enjoyed it... told all my friends about it...
I have never been a person who liked to read books with an autobiographical point of view; but I am glad I have dared to look beyond my prejudices and go for it.
Nice words, beautifully written, Edmund White is a real craftsman. (Based solely on this novel, because he lost some magic when I read A Boys story).
A very helpfull and insightfull book. How did gay men live in the 50's up till the 80's... Really beautiful!
I spread the word about the book among almost all of my friends and even the heterosexual people really liked it. I think it's not only a gay-tale, but it's a tale about loving people, wheter they are male, female... whatever, it doesn't matter, because the one thing you can read between all the lines is that the writer must have really loved the people he wrote about.
Within a few weeks he'll be coming to the Netherlands for a presentation, most definitely I am one of the people being there and hanging on to every word he tells.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8df6fe28) out of 5 stars This book enters my top 10 all time favourites 20 April 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book in my local bookshop as it was being sold off half price. I'd never read Edmund White before, never even heard of him, so it's purely by chance that I'm reading this novel. His prose is perfect, I can't fault it and the story is moving and honest. I never want this book to end. I disagree with a previous poster who said you have to read this book as part of the trilogy, it hasn't spoiled my enjoyment of this novel one bit not having in advance the history of the other books.
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