"And now it was too late: once we begin to sense our childhoods, we are no longer children. And decisions have been made—by omission, neglect, inertia—that cannot be unmade."
For Paul, Keller's death forces him to realize that his childhood is over. Gone with it are the opportunities to achieve and be successful in the future. He ended up on his path partially through the circumstance of his family and of meeting Keller, and partially through his own neglect by choosing to prioritize his romantic passions. Now that he is finally fully aware of Keller's story and his significance in his life, it is too late to go back to spend more time with him or learn more from him.
"If we were discussing the same man, how different our two versions. Or perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps they were not the same man, in a sense."
After meeting with Joseph Henisch and hearing how different his Keller and the Keller Henisch describes are, he realizes how much Keller has changed. Perhaps a result of the circumstances he endured, and perhaps out of a desire to flee from the past Keller has become a much different man than he was during his heyday as a pianist.
"Sitting here, setting down these first memories of Keller—and checking them through, believing them accurate—I find it hard to understand how much I came to love the man, to depend on him."
Paul foreshadows how much his initial feelings toward Keller will change throughout the story. It also lets the reader know that he is relaying the narrative of his youth from an older age—and in possession of a more mature perspective and the knowledge of how the whole story plays out—which the reader should keep in mind while reading his narration.
"'Your Father never had your opportunities,' she continued, the words still upper-case and reverential. 'He always regretted it. You must understand: we lost so much time in the War. And after the War there was no time for music. If he seems hard on you, it's because of that.'"
Paul's mother explains that the reason Paul's father wants him to take his piano lessons seriously is that he feels like he missed the opportunity to be a great pianist and does not want Paul to do the same. She notes how strong of an impact the War had on his musical opportunities, ironic considering Keller lost so much more in the War and that the War is the reason Keller ends up in Darwin and in Paul's life.
"'We're having Wiener Schnitzel tonight, Herr Keller. In your honour. And sauerkraut—I had awful trouble finding a recipe. I hope it doesn't make you homesick...'
'Nothing, dear lady, could make me homesick.'"
Hoping to make Eduard feel at home, Mrs. Crabbe prepares a dinner of German food when he comes to the Crabbes' house for dinner. Ignorant of Keller's horrible experiences in his home country and his desire to run away from that part of his identity, the Crabbes do not yet understand why Keller would never be homesick for Austria.
"'Perhaps that was the only way he could give it,' she suggested. 'At a distance. Carelessly. As if it meant nothing.'"
This quote refers to the signed first edition of Czerny's Opus 599 studies that Keller sends Paul in the mail for Christmas. Giving such a precious gift is an early sign of how much Keller cares for his pupil, but he sends it at a distance as if it meant nothing to maintain his barriers and avoid directly showing his affection for Paul.
"He resumed playing, and with the fist chords I was transported again to that same sensual, aching zone. The music seemed nearer to lovemaking than to music...and now I knew about lovemaking."
During his first lesson after making love with Rosie, Paul hears Keller playing a Liszt piece. Keller calls it an intellectual exercise, but because of his recent activities, the music reminds Paul of lovemaking. Paul is maturing both intellectually and romantically; at times music and sex are intertwined, while other times they are in conflict with one another.
"Like me, she had no doubt rehearsed these movements many times in her head beforehand: her passion, her inventiveness only gave the impression of spontaneity."
Paul's musical perspective is reflected in the way he describes his sexual interactions with Rosie. He says the movements have been rehearsed, just as a piano piece is rehearsed. They have prepared in advance to get it just right at the performance. Movement is also a term used to describe an individual part of a musical composition or musical form.
"Mother. Was this the first time I had used the word in that way—keeping her at a distance, as if with a verbal barge pole. Certainly somewhere in that year she has made the transition from Mum to Mother: the journey of nuances."
When telling his mother about his trip to Adelaide with the band, Paul makes the switch from calling her "Mum" to the more distant "Mother." Paul begins the book incredibly close to his parents, but as other characters enter his life these other relationships make him more distant from his parents. This change is part of Paul's growing up and coming of age in the novel.
"And Keller? Although I quoted him tirelessly through those years in Adelaide I wrote to him infrequently. I knew enough, I'd decided. I'd learnt all the lessons that were in his power to teach me."
When Paul goes to the Conservatorium, the skills and techniques he has learned from Keller have hardened into dogma. Yet, too self-satisfied and focused on his own success, he does not realize how much Keller has really taught him and how much better a pianist Keller was than he will be. By the time Paul comes to this realization at the end of the novel, Keller has passed away and it is too late.
Maestro Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Maestro is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Paul's maturing from a teenage boy to a grown man is a central theme in the novel. His maturity comes in many different forms. He matures physically, growing taller than most of his classmates between his first and second year. Paul also...
While at first an outcast at school, Paul eventually becomes friends with the school bullies after using his musical talents to help their band. At school, he meets Rosie Zollo, who he falls in love with and later marries.
Keller spends most of his time drinking schnapps and reading newspapers at the beer garden below the room where he lives at the Swan. Keller employs unorthodox teaching methods and does not praise or show approval of Paul's playing.