Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind
Nicolas Bazan, M.D.
Five Star Publications (2008)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (3/09)
Let’s see – what would you think of if I threw these few words at you: lagniappe, beignet, Maspero’s and Central Grocery? If you do not immediately think of New Orleans, that just means that you most definitely need to come back and visit the Big Easy again… All of those, as well as a few good others, such as the Marsalis family, the mules, the Preservation Hall, a nice jambalaya, the famous Cornstalk fence, a jazz funeral Barq’s, Angola, Lead Belly and more make an appearance in the beautifully written “Una Vida” by Nicolas Bazan. More than just scenery, all of those items are part of an intricately woven story with a cadence all of its own.
“Una Vida,” a so-called “Fable of Music and the Mind,” reveals a fascinating story of a jazz musician and singer, known only as Una Vida (one life in Spanish) to the handful of people who care for and about her. Although she’s clearly suffering from Alzheimer’s, her music abilities kept part of her mind relatively lucid. This, as well as Una Vida herself, intrigue Dr. Alvaro Cruz, an immigrant neuroscientist, who sets on the convoluted path to discover Una Vida’s true identity. The quest will ultimately lead him to several significant revelations, not only about Una Vida and her life, but about himself as well.
Dr. Bazan’s book is beautifully written and reveals the width and depth of his interests as well as his obviously extensive education, not only as a scientist but also as a well-read and erudite individual. Just as an example, during the course of the story, he elaborates on such diverse individuals as Dante, Edison, Goya, Aristotle and Marquez, not to mention a number of jazz greats. His insights into music and culture of Louisiana, particularly New Orleans, are perceptive and enlightening. Even taken purely as a fiction, this would be great reading, and when we add to this mix his insights into human psyche and musings on the human brain, dreams, memory, and more, we end with a truly powerful book on living, loving and forgiving. I would highly recommend it to anybody whose life has ever been touched by Alzheimer’s or any similar disease which affects human brain, as well as to any reader who enjoys intelligently written and relevant fiction.
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