2004-04-19 · in Books · 200 words

It's more of an obstacle than a musical instrument. [...] It stands around the whole time, you know ... there was this uncle of mine who was always ill, and he always complained there was no one looking after him. The double-bass is just like that. If you have friends round, it always hogs the limelight. No one will talk about anything else. And if you're wanting to be alone with a woman, it stands there, looming over you.

A friend first lent me this book back when I played double-bass, and I've only recently found another copy. From his biography, I don't think Süskind ever played bass himself, but he'd clearly spent a lot of time listening to bass players rant about their lives; this book is a short, entertaining and entirely accurate monologue about the trials of playing the double-bass.

I was interested to see that the translation (from German) "transculturated" some things but not others: eight hundred quid and Tube, but Frau Niemeyer upstairs and us Germans.

The book will probably be funnier if you haven't played double-bass yourself; if you have, then you'll be nodding sadly about half the time rather than laughing. Well worth reading.