On 20 July l944 Adolf Hitler narrowly escaped death when an assassin's bomb failed to kill him in his Eastern command, the Wolf's Lair. The conspirators were hunted down and hanged from meat-hooks, and their executions were filmed. Among them was Axel von Gottberg.Sixty years after his death, von Gottberg's close friend and now a legendary Oxford professor, Elya Mendel, leaves a legacy of papers and letters to a former student, Conrad Senior. Senior becomes obsessed with what they reveal, but as he becomes more and more involved with the past his own relationship with his wife Francine begins to fall apart.The friendship between Mendel and von Gottberg is fatally undermined by a romantic rivalry when two mysterious cousins, Rosamund and Elizabeth, enter their lives in a richly imagined pre-war Jerusalem. But it is finally destroyed when von Gottberg returns to Germany. Mendel, who is Jewish, believes him to be a Nazi, and alerts the Allies to his doubts about his friend, doubts which torment him after von Gottberg is garrotted. Conrad is desperate to find a film Hitler had made of these appalling executions, for reasons he himself cannot fully understand.The Song Before It Is Sung is a remarkable tapestry of passion, ideas, frailty, courage and humanity, spanning Oxford in the 1930s, pre-war Prussia and contemporary Britain. It is a profound novel that addresses the nature of friendship and what it means to be human, and it is the work of a master novelist.
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Actually, Conrad is aware that he is not thinking full-blown thoughts, but highlights, like the trailers at his local cinema complex; these thoughts are presenting themselves to him in a chaotic pageant. It is in the nature of air travel with its barely suppressed claustrophobia and its sexual speculation and dulled sense of movement that thoughts seem to be provoked to go on the exuberant march. (You can only think about thoughts, or consciousness, in metaphors.)