My life with Mozart


“One day, he sent me some music. It changed my life. Since that day, I often write to him. When the fancy takes him, he writes back – at a concert, in an airport, on a corner of the street – and he is always startlingly original. He has become my guru and teaches me precious things: wonder, gentleness, serenity and joy.

”A troubled adolescent happens upon a rehearsal of “The Marriage of Figaro”. Through the voice of the Countess Almaviva, Mozart saves his life: you don’t leave a world that contains such marvels and beauty. Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt and the genius composer thus become inseparable...

This is Schmitt’s most personal and self-revelatory book, full of admiration, gratitude and love. It includes, in answer to the author’s letters, high-quality versions and recordings of 16 pieces and extracts from among Mozart’s finest works.
Available in Belgium, French-speaking Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Holland, Korea, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland from 12 October 2005.


« An author of extreme sensitivity...... »

An author of extreme sensitivity... Eve-Marie Vaes, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels Your ‘encounter’ with that most classical of artists, Mozart, happened when you were a teenager, the age of rebellion and discontent. How did he win you over? My rebellion at that time was against life. At 15, like a lot of adolescents, I didn’t want to embark on life. It’s incredibly frightening seeing adult life taking shape, watching one’s body growing up, and it’s a scary business leaving behind childhood and the world of dreams where everything was possible. It’s no exaggeration when I say that beauty cured me at a rehearsal for The Marriage of Figaro. Suddenly, this hefty-looking woman with too much make-up began to sing, and I felt a complete jolt. I was flooded with music. Music expresses such passion for life… and, you know, the arts in general are nothing but a celebration of life. Which is why we need art, because we need to exalt in life. Hearing Mozart’s music made me realize all that and put me back on the road to life.  Reading your book one gets a real sense that you fell head over heels in love with Mozart. It’s a love story, a book about incipient love, confidences, separation, getting back together… Yes, that’s right, we split up for a time! Mozart suddenly wasn’t hip enough for me. But I think that often happens in one’s twenties and thirties: one needs sophistication and complexity. It’s not until later that one discovers how rich simplicity can be. « Basically, Mozart is my ideal of what a writer should be » It’s precisely that combination of grace and simplicity, depth and lightness in Mozart that your writing exudes…Would that that were true! Mozart is basically my ideal of what a writer should be. He’s my ideal artist, deep and accessible, charming and serious. He’s a synthesis between the ‘noble’ and the ‘popular art’. One gets a sense that your relationship with Mozart made you question the fundamentals of existence: religion, belief, sickness, death and creation. But the ultimate lesson he taught you was optimism.Absolutely! Mozart teaches joy and optimism. In my book, I don’t talk about music as a musicologist; I talk about it as part of our spiritual life, as a constructive element in our inner and emotional life. What I take from Mozart isn’t a lesson about harmony or form but a humanistic message. He made me understand what childhood and belief mean; he taught me to favour joy over sorrow. Has your perception of Mozart evolved over the years, or is that initial emotion still intact and timeless? It’s hard to believe but it’s still intact. Mozart remains for me a base I can always go back to. It’s a miracle that occurs quite frequently. It’s not a memory I foster but an experience that’s rekindled whenever I hear a Mozartian phrase in a piece of music; I just marvel. His music is so profoundly spiritual.« It’s Mozart who says the ineffable, not me » Why have some works (see the book and accompanying CD) affected you more than others? I think there’s a consistency, a single strand running through them: they all represent Mozart at his most sensitive, Mozart close to tears, deeply human, and brotherly and frail. But at the same time, you can hear the balanced Mozart who created harmony and beauty out of our inner tensions. And then again, there’s the intimate Mozart whispering in our ear. Hence all the adagios, slow movements and gentle melodies. How do you see the staging of the book (Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 25/10/05) and your relationship with the singers? Aren’t you afraid the words will interfere with the ineffable quality about Mozartian grace? I use this interference. When words are powerless, that’s when the music comes in, that’s what makes the show dramatic. It’s Mozart who says the ineffable, not me. I want to create a dialogue between literature and music. And we’re not saying the same things with the same tools. There are moments when the text stops because only music can express mystery. Words hover around mystery but music expresses it. ‘Music answers yes to questions we don’t always articulate.’


Lire, octobre 2005 - « Thanks again, Mozart! »

A highly personal tribute to the composer on the eve of the 250th anniversary of his birthLife for Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, as recounted in his latest book, began with a troubled adolescence, the temptation of suicide, the anguish of loneliness, and finally, Don Juanism, over a ten-year period. It also involved, Schmitt admits, the "cowardice" of intellectual conformism and capitulation with the snobbery of contemporary music concerts. At Christmas, gifts were bought to "appease one's soul" and make up for the failures of the past year. Then, there was the overwhelming distress of visits to sick friends in hospital, and lastly, the death of the beloved.

These experiences form the stuff of life, but a life without Mozart, a life that was not exactly the one the author depicts. At every stage, the beauty of Mozart's music helps him "consent to the tragedy of existence". The Countess' aria in Act III of The Marriage of Figaro rekindles the teenager's zest for life; Barberina's "pure grief" awakens the young man to the gregarious element in his denial "of everything that was agreeable, accessible and likable" in music. The Ave Verum Corpus, intoned by a choir of old men, reveals to him the true generosity of Christmas. On his way home from a hospital visit, the Adagio from the Clarinet Concerto teaches him to break with the great dream of transforming the world and to "forgive himself" for not being able to change it. Finally, the sound of the violin fills him once more with the radiant presence of the beloved.

We are now half way through the book. Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt receives a commission to produce a French version of The Marriage of Figaro. His life as a writer becomes involved with Mozart. The letters he writes to the composer give him the opportunity to reflect on the advantages of music as a means of expression, on creation as continuity rather than rupture, and on happiness and the spirit and simplicity of childhood. The correspondence continues until the discovery that The Magic Flute tells his own story: the story of a life that is changed by music. The book comes with a CD, which will add much to readers' enjoyment.

La Croix, 20 octobre 2005 - « Eric-Emmanuel in conversation with Wolfgang Amadeus »

(...) spell-binding. Most of us have come to Mozart's universe indirectly or fallen under his spell unexpectedly (...).

Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has found touching, simple and illuminating words to elucidate these experiences. As the reader embarks with him on this story of a life - the life of an admired and controversial author - two portraits emerge: the first of the child-man, Mozart, a vulgar rascal whose greatness lay in his ability to access tragedy behind the sunny smile of bewitching melodies; the second, of a writer who achieves self-knowledge and understanding through music. The somewhat artificial side (handwritten notes in the margin refer the reader to the CD that illustrates the works mentioned) in fact makes the two characters interlock more effectively. Schmitt may not gain vast popularity with this confession, but it will certainly deepen his readers' love of Mozart.

Perhaps that was his intention all along, in which case he will have accomplished his mission in this alternately delightful and irritating slim volume.

Jean-Luc Macia

Marianne, novembre 05 - « Mozart or nothing »

  (...) The "lesson-in-wisdom" aspect is bound to contribute to the success of this book: Mozart and Schmitt speak to us about work, pain, AIDS, creation and sex, all of it full of good sense, while the mirror the musician holds up, allows Schmitt to reveal his secrets. He is candid about his sexual frustrations and his suicidal yearnings and pleasures, adding a good dose of classical reflection in the tradition of the French philosopher, Alain. He even manages to interest us in comparisons between the doctrines of happiness and suffering, in reflections on the difference between Mozart and pretentious avant-garde music, and in questions such as "How could you write this light, aerial, fluid, easy music when your body was groaning and your gums ached?" Having just been to the dentist, I feel we don't pay enough attention to these details. But above all, Schmitt reveals himself as an informed music-lover and proves a deft exponent on music. Concerning Cherubino's entrance in The Marriage of Figaro, for instance, he remarks: "He does not declaim, he murmurs, he shivers, he unleashes snippets of half-finished sentences that hardly form a melody..." Schmitt puts it well, and that's not easy: he should write about music more often. Benoît Duteurtre.

Dagbladet, Norge - 25 nov 05 - « Healing by Mozart »

My Life with Mozart, translated by Kari and Kjell Risvik, is surely one of the most beautiful books of the season, and among the most important. A short text, it comes with a CD of excellent Mozart-recordings. Music and words provide unexpected pleasure and offer the reader an uplifting experience. I don't think I have felt this way since Saint Exupery's The Little Prince, where the author's delightful illustrations added that extra dimension. In My Life with Mozart, recordings of some of the world's finest singers and orchestras are what give the book its special appeal.This is an existential book that reflects on the capacity of music to heal. Its airy, simple language will be enjoyed by young as well as older readers. It is about the 'power of music over the human mind, its redemptive powers and its hidden revolutionary power�.(...) Mozart as medicine? Yes. Mozart as meditation? Yes. Mozart as the entrance to rooms in you that have been shut up for too long. What is more, the musical interludes, performed by some of the world's greatest artists, could provide a way in to classical music, which is unfamiliar to many young people. Buy the book. Read it. Listen to it. Then give it to someone as a gift. In doing so, you will be giving them, not only a book, but access to insight and understanding. As Schmitt says himself: Mozart gives me access to my own inner theatre.Harriet Eide

Opéra Dec 05 - « As Mozart would have liked it »

An author who gets rave reviews for both his fiction and his plays, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is an intellectual with narrative powers to match the quality of his thought. In a highly personal and lively style, he describes his love affair with Mozart. His correspondence with the composer could have come straight out of the eighteenth century, like the letters from Madame du Deffand or Mademoiselle de Lespinasse.

My Life with Mozart is original, touching, and full of pertinent comments about the role Mozart's music can play in a person's life, once one listens to it and perceives it other than passively at a concert. With no attempt at music analysis, the book offers instead a series of reactions, impressions and purely subjective commentaries, which are anyway usually among the more interesting things people have to say about music.

For anyone interested, the beautiful extracts from Universal's Mozart discography on the accompanying CD allow the reader to follow the emotional impact the composer had on the author. A splendid tribute that overflows with life, just as Mozart would have liked.

Gérard Mannoni

Le Monde - « Extract from the review of the book by Christian Jacques on Mozart »

  .... Best-selling author, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, bring us his alternative autobiography, as the book's title My Life with Mozart avows. Indeed, "confession" is the operative word for a work that describes the author's tumultuous passion for a composer who saved his life when, aged 15, he was about to choose the slow, hygienic death of Seneca, who slit his wrists in the bath. But then, the boy hears the Opera de Lyon in rehearsal and is captivated by the Countess' aria from Act III of The Marriage of Figaro offering the promise of eternal consolation, and he shelves his morbid plan.He also describes his guilt at having dismissed this salvation on the grounds that it was too accessible to be worthwhile: "Forgive me, I succumbed to snobbery. You are too popular (...). You won't let a select group of admirers see themselves as unique and superior to the masses. Sorry, Mozart, you are just not elitist enough." Schmitt's simple confession that listening to Mozart is enough to make life worth living, justifies this portrait of the writer as a grateful music-lover, while the wonderful CD included with the book makes his urge to say "thank you" contagious.Pierre Robert Leclair/ Philippe Catinchi


  • In Bulgarian language, Editions Lege Artis Publishing House
  • In Dutch published by Atlas uitgerij in 2005, translated by Eef Gratama: Mijn leven met Mozart
  • In German published by Ammann Verlag in 2005, translated by Ines Koebel
  • In Icelandic language, published by Lafleur Publishing
  • In Greek, published by Opera
  • In Italian published by Edizioni e/o in 2005, translated by Alberto Bracci Testasecca
  • In Japonese, published by Kinemajonpo-sha, translated by Kobayashi Nobuyuki
  • In Korean published by Munhak Segye-Sa publishing in 2005
  • In Norwegian published by Pantagruel Forlag
  • In Polish language, published by Znak
  • In Romanian language, published by Humanitas
  • In Swedish published by Storm Förlag/Pantagruel Förlag