The Artist is a compelling, richly written novel created by an author with the heart of a true artist.
Lyra Shanti is a novelist, poet, playwright, and songwriter. She is the author of the science fiction Shiva series, which has won several awards, including the first place 2017 SIBA Award for Best Science Fiction from Metamorph Publishing, the 2017 Best Space Opera Novel from Virtual FantasyCon, and 2017 Best SciFi Novella from Virtual FantasyCon.
The novel tells the story of musician and composer Apollo Antonius Vidali, who overcame a traumatic childhood to become a talented and highly sought-after artist. Spurred on by his abusive, harsh father to become a successful composer, Apollo soaks up the attention of others, especially women. Indeed, his inability to control his desires and decide what he truly wants wreak havoc on all his adult relationships. He constantly seeks the dopamine rush brought on by the approval and attention of others, approval he did not receive from the parent who raised him.
Reminiscent of the story of Mozart, another child prodigy with a severe father who pushed the limits of his talent, Apollo ends up exhibiting the childish and immature tendencies that he was forced to repress as a child. He seeks solace in the arms of his wife, Coda, but is he even able to handle a committed relationship?
The characters in The Artist are complex and richly drawn. I questioned the adult Apollo’s choices while at the same time grieved his lost childhood and sympathized with the hand he was dealt.
There are several themes to unpack here. Is Apollo the way he is because he was born that way, or is his character a result of his harsh upbringing?
Further, Apollo’s father manages to keep Apollo dependent on him, and Apollo in turn appears desperate to please his father. This is not a healthy dynamic for an adult child and parent. Apollo’s father has his say regarding his son’s choice of employment, which suggests that his father sees him as an extension of himself. In turn, Apollo reinforces this dynamic by trying to please his father, instead of seeing himself as an independent adult with free choices.
As do many who have the strong desire to create, Apollo seeks solitude in composing his music, which takes a toll on his marriage and family relationships. Family life requires one’s time and attention, but the artist needs to create or he will go crazy. And, as noted by a Goodreads reviewer, there exists a fine line between genius and insanity.
The author’s description of the artistic process is spot on. Apollo is a tortured soul who escapes the confines of material life through composing. As I continued to read the story, I found myself asking whether art always arises as the product of great suffering. Is suffering indeed a necessary component of great art?
The Artist raises more questions than it answers, and that is not a criticism. How does one deal with a traumatic childhood? Indeed, that is different for everyone. Does anyone really want to know exactly how great art is produced? What made Mozart Mozart or Beethoven Beethoven? I’m not sure that I want to know, since that is where the magic happens. And, of course, as the book’s tagline reads, can love save a man from himself?
Without giving anything away, the ending of The Artist finishes on a positive note, hinting at the protagonist’s redemption.
Further information about Lyra’s stories, music, and more can be found at lyrashanti.com