Leaves like human voices

May 3, 2012

All at once the sound of children singing in the monastery stopped them in their tracks. The voices calmed Tin Win. As if someone were stroking his face and his belly, soothing him. He stood frozen, listening. The soft rustling of leaves intermingled with the voices. It was more than a simple rustling, though. Tin Win realized that leaves, like human voices, each had their own characteristic timbre. Just as with colors, there were shades of rustling. He heard thin twigs rubbing together and leaves brushing against one another. He heard individual leaves dropping lightly to the ground in front of him. Even as they drifted through the air, he noticed that no two leaves sounded alike.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, page 116

When I was halfway into this beautiful book, I flipped to the opening pages to check the publication date and was shocked to see that it was published 10 years ago and translated into English six years ago. Why haven’t I heard of this book before? Why isn’t everyone reading it?

In poignant yet accessible prose, Jan Philipp Sendker draws a portrait of the contrast between Western and Eastern thought through a modern-day fairytale. The only words that come to mind for this book are lovely and beautiful. I read it in only a few sittings, barely able to put it down. It felt like my reward after persevering through The Paris Wife (which I wish I could recommend but cannot as it somehow, inexplicably, makes Hemmingway in Paris in the ’20s boring). I’ve read so many great books this year that it’s hard to say where it ranks in comparison, but I found it delightful and hope you do too.

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