Welcome to an enchanting journey through the realms of literature, philosophy, and history in this exclusive author interview. Today, we have the pleasure of diving into the mind of Sudanand, a multifaceted individual whose life experiences span the skies, racetracks, and the corridors of an orthopedic hospital. With over 16,000 hours of flying jets and a career that took him from Jet Airways to Air Asia, Sudanand’s life has been a whirlwind adventure in the world of aviation.

But that’s just the beginning. Sudanand’s passion for motorsport has seen him participate in over 160 races, securing podium finishes, race wins, and national championships. Yet, his journey doesn’t stop there. As Deputy Director of Ortho-One, a leading orthopedic hospital, Sudanand has also delved into the world of healthcare.

In his free time, Sudanand finds solace in reading, playing the piano, crafting model airplanes, and meticulously building model railroads. Today, we delve into his literary creation, “Beethoven’s Last Symphony,” a work that transcends genres, blending bildungsroman, literary fiction, historical fiction, and existential exploration.

1. The title “Beethoven’s Last Symphony” carries a sense of finality and significance. Could you share the inspiration behind the title and how it relates to the themes explored in your book?

Answer: ‘Symphony’ alludes to ‘Timeless Love’, the incomplete three-part embedded narrative akin to a three-part symphony, which is penned to its conclusion by the young protagonist, Zoey. Beethoven, the titular namesake of the famous composer, is the deuteragonist of the main narrative, even if debatably so! As the story progresses, the reader apprehends the thematic significance of the novel’s entire appellation.

2. The book seamlessly weaves together multiple time periods and historical contexts. How did you approach the research and writing process to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of each era depicted in the story?

Answer: To frame a cogent and coherent narrative in the Italian peninsula during a timeframe lacking written accounts was an immense challenge, requiring me to read up on available scholarship on anthropology and sociology from that period, based almost entirely on archaeology. Moreover, I had never read a work of fiction from the Neolithic Era nor was I aware of the existence of any such work. Hence, it was quite the challenge to frame a plausible period storyline and then attempt to ‘creatively’ infuse the dialogues with an apparent archaic flavor, nonetheless, conscious of the criticism it could elicit from scholars on the aforementioned period. Luckily enough, the ‘artistic license’ card is one that an author of fiction could cheerfully wave at detractors to his/her defense when faced with the inevitable flak of less-than-favorable critique. However, the second part of the embedded narrative that takes place in the Roman Republic was less of a challenge—a challenge, nonetheless!

3. The connection between music and human emotions is a prominent theme in your book. Could you elaborate on your personal views about the profound impact of music on the human experience and how it influenced the narrative?

Answer: One only has to attend a concert or observe the effect of liturgical music and recitation on the faithful to witness the group euphoria, akin to a mystical or spiritual experience, and concede that music is a driver and emotional force multiplier like no other. Beyond the transcendental aspect, there is undoubtedly an adaptive element, as evinced by a recent study attesting to the ability of music to encourage prosocial interactions and promote trust within culturally compatible groups, though not necessarily genetically related individuals, never mind the qualitative aspect of music itself. That aside, I spur the reader to imagine a piece of music that infuses him/her with images of a long-deceased loved one or the wistful, nostalgic reminiscence of the bittersweet past. Personally, my go-to pieces are the second movement of Beethoven’s 5th Concerto and Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor. That music permeates lives and cultures is an understatement to its transcendental quality that I am sure most readers will relate to no matter their choice of genre.

4. Zoey’s journey involves a profound exploration of existential themes. How did you create such a deep and relatable emotional journey for your main character? Were there any personal experiences or influences that contributed to Zoey’s development?

Answer: It seems to me that creating an existential journey as I did was not necessarily the greatest of challenges, considering the easily relatable universal nature and inescapable reality of the human condition, apropos suffering and angst, particularly when one cognizes the inevitability of human finitude. Intertextuality aside, I suppose any work of literature brings to bear the sum of all experiences and observations of the author. I do admit that some of the protagonists/characters, including Zoey, are, to varying degrees, composite characters of people I have interacted with, including close friends and family who have simultaneously displayed courage, fortitude, and vulnerability when faced with vicissitudes and tribulations or the loss of a loved one—and in two separate occasions when faced with imminent mortality themselves! Moreover, having undergone a crisis of faith, years ago, the creation of such a novel was close to my heart—for the themes of uncertainty and angst, which, though having accompanied humanity for all of its existence, have, in the last century, taken on a distinctly nihilistic flavor through the further attenuation of religious doctrines, post Darwinism and Big-bang cosmology, posing newer existential challenges—no less concerning the nature of the soul and its purported immortality.

5. ‘Beethoven’s Last Symphony’ invites readers to reflect on the meaning of life and the human condition. Could you share your motivation for taking on this theme?

Answer: At the outset, ‘Beethoven’s Last Symphony’ is themed on a search for meaning and not happiness, a distinction that cannot be stated strongly enough. Two centuries ago, a frail and often sickly Nietzche posited, not without irony, ‘The Will to Power’, thereby ameliorating, if not subsuming, Schopenhauer’s position concerning the irrational animating essence of the human ‘soul’ as being, merely—‘Will’. Along came Freud concurring with the primacy of ‘Will’ though appending the impulse with one of libidinal savor! Amidst the carnage in the battlefield of ideas, apropos ‘Will’, it seemed, at least to me, that Frankl’s ‘Will to Meaning’, or meaning as being the driving impulse to humanity’s thriving, persevering and self-preservation, could possibly survive the inevitable onslaught of appraisals. Whatever one opines of Freud, one cannot help but agree with his proposition that happiness offers merely a fleeting sense of well-being; here is where I think that humanity in its well-intentioned collective search for the overall well-being of its species, often chases elusive non-goals, and I hoped to illuminate this point, even if incidentally, though without being overly didactic.

6. The manuscript within the main story, ‘Timeless Love’, an epic in its own right, serves as a pivotal element in the manner in which the two merge at the end. How did this idea come about? Could you share the significance of using an embedded pre-historical/historical story to drive the main narrative and how it mirrors Zoey’s own quest? Is there a takeaway for the reader?

Answer: Philosophers have traditionally been male. On that very account, I ran through a thought experiment of a female philosopher placed slap-bang in the Neolithic Era, who had ‘miraculously’ survived into modern times. Invoking Euhemerism, I ‘appropriated’ Dawn Goddess Eos of the Greek pantheon and created a back story dating to her humble though fictional origins as young ‘Eyos’ in Neolithic Abruzzo as narrated in ‘Timeless Love’, the embedded story in ‘Beethoven’s Last Symphony’ that eventually leads up to Eyos positing the timelessness of love. The last part of your question takes me back to my answer to the previous question, concerning the ‘Will’ and melding it with my own musings over what a female philosopher might possibly tease out from the crushing weight and existential rubble of a long-drawn existence and eventually hazard to propose as being the driving essence of ‘Will’; the clue lies in the title of the embedded narration, though the arrow doesn’t land far from Frankl! And, in this regard, Zoey finds some of her answers by reconciling with the somewhat static nature of the human condition, though not without an epiphany, from which she derives renewed hope and meaningful optimism thanks to her fresh perspective of humanity. Moreover, I hope to offer fellow travelers in humanity’s existential peregrinations, a tale imbued with tangible meaning and purpose, particularly pertinent in a world that, for the most part, offers these through certitude of notions that are as yet beyond human grasp except through theological and metaphysical speculation.

7. The book traverses between modern times and the Neolithic Era. Were there any challenges in maintaining a balance between these vastly different settings and creating a seamless transition for readers?

Answer: Humans, in so far as they are a sum of their genes, hormones, and synapses, the collective material constituents of the metaphorical soul from where emerges the self (at least in my reckoning), that have remained approximately constant in their constitution right from the time that our species were discernibly distinct from prior hominids, are therefore on an average predictable in the scope of their emotional, mental and ‘spiritual’ proclivities and needs. In the aforementioned context, one could draw recognizable parallels in the manner of formation and evolution of societies, cultures, religions, and civilizations that on closer examination appear to have emerged rather than to have been constructed. When, and if, one cognizes this, the transition between the past and the present is rendered less of a challenge than not, whether in the creation of such narration or its apprehension.

8. The conclusion of the book brings together various threads in a satisfying manner. How did you approach crafting an ending that tied up the narrative while still leaving room for readers to contemplate the book’s themes?

Answer: Much of my writing was instinctive, suggesting that I probably don’t have a very good answer as to the ‘how’. I often found my novel penning itself, for the story took many twists and turns that I could never have imagined, particularly the concluding existential proposition hinted at by Eyos, concerning a deep familial love that transcends time and generations. Interestingly, you mentioned ‘leaving room for the reader’, possibly alluding to a certain unresolved tension that continues to linger long after the last page is turned. And while moments of apparent denouement teasingly taunt and elude the reader until the end, I’m sure you will forgive me my cheek if I were to remark that I did warn the reader as to what was coming—or, perhaps, wasn’t 😉

9. “Beethoven’s Last Symphony” spans genres, combining a bildungsroman with literary fiction, historical fiction, existential exploration, and emotional depth. How do you see your book fitting within the broader literary landscape, and were there any authors or works that inspired you during its creation?

Answer: Notwithstanding the overlapping genres, I had imagined that ‘Beethoven’s Last Symphony’, though belonging to the broader classification of ‘Literary Fiction’, would likely cater to a niche segment owing to episodic philosophical allusions, rendering it a weighty read. I was thrilled, however, to receive reviews stating that besides the philosophical features and dialogues incorporated within the novel, there was, nonetheless, an affecting tale, perhaps even two, to be enjoyed by one and all. Just a few of my favorite authors are Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Seneca, St Augustine, Spinoza, Kafka, Hume, Nietzsche, Frankl, Goethe, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Exupery, W.E. Johns, Rushdie, Hitchens and Harari, all of whom I believe have inspired me in my writing to varying degrees, though I leave it to your good selves to be the judge as to the manifestation of their collective spirit in my work.

As we draw this captivating interview to a close, we’ve had the privilege of uncovering the layers of “Beethoven’s Last Symphony” and the profound insights shared by Sudanand. From the intricate research that brought historical eras to life to the exploration of music’s transcendent power, Sudanand has taken us on a remarkable journey through the human experience.

This novel, with its rich blend of genres and thought-provoking themes, is a testament to the depth of Sudanand’s literary talent. It invites readers to ponder the eternal questions of existence, meaning, and the enduring power of love. We hope you’ve been as inspired as we have by this conversation with Sudanand, a true polymath and storyteller whose work will leave a lasting impact on those who venture into the pages of “Beethoven’s Last Symphony.”


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