Music For the End of Time

Jen Bryant; Beth Peck, illus.
  • Review
By – May 14, 2012

This sto­ry is based on the expe­ri­ence of Olivi­er Mes­si­aen, a Chris­t­ian French com­pos­er. In 1941, he is detained in a Ger­man prison camp, but he is grant­ed per­mis­sion to play a piano and com­pose his music. A Ger­man offi­cer leads him to the piano and he even­tu­al­ly becomes inspired by the song of a nightin­gale, which he trans­lates into a sonata. Two new pris­on­ers arrive car­ry­ing their instru­ments in cas­es and before long, voila! — cham­ber music for a camp con­cert in front of 5,000 pris­on­ers. The camp is described as des­o­late, and the first illus­tra­tion does show a deject­ed line of kha­ki-clad pris­on­ers being guard­ed through the gates by Ger­man guards and a dog. The pris­on­ers are sent to their bar­racks where they receive non-striped kha­ki uni­forms and mat­tress­es made of straw, but the love­ly pas­tel illus­tra­tions down­play the harsh­ness of the sur­round­ings. There is no Jew­ish con­tent. The now-famous piece Mes­si­aen com­posed there is: 

Quar­tet for the End of Time. For ages 8 and up.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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