It is the literary astrolabe for the twenty-first century.
Reading Jonathan Levi’s Septimania is like making love to an emotionally or psychologically unbalanced person; in the moment it is extremely enjoyable and even exciting, but upon some sober reflection it is a rather deep matter that is somewhat frightening. Synesthesia is the neurophysiological gift that allows one to see certain musical notes as individual specific colors, quite literally to hear cerulean or to see a G above high C as orange in an inherent way that that is similar to the more forced manner in which certain geniuses have been able to make music into mathematics. These recondite and ineffable connecting mechanisms are woven through this gripping and entertaining and layered narrative in such a way that it evolves into a novel that unifies many disparate and varied intellectual and aesthetic elements. It is written in both a major and a minor key. It is the literary astrolabe for the twenty-first century.
The reader is joyously compelled along a clever and gripping story arc that would make Dan Brown wish he were funnier and smarter, while the tale’s underlying harmonies not only bring to mind history, astronomy, music, grammar, faith, love, mathematics, logic, sex, rhetoric, science, and art, they make the reader begin to see that perhaps these are all the same one thing. Septimania is a suspenseful page-turner that invests you in the developments that grasp a hold of its protagonist and stun him along his and our road to very deep and broad discovery. You cannot take your eyes off of the spectacle. But other realizations play the accompaniment. The whole intellectual world is contained in the map of Rome. Music is making love is literature. We are, each one of us, a Jew, and a Gentile, a Muslim, and a pagan. A violin plays to us in the colors of a Michelangelo or a Titian. Gravity is light and electricity and perhaps God. One woman is all the women in the world.
If you do not find that you cannot put this book down even after you have finished it, you will not long be a virgin. It compels you to read it over again and to draw from it some things that are new or were unseen before. It is a Borgesian smorgasbord of meaning and beauty. Jonathan Levi is the wise shaman, or the unifying field theorist, of all the things that matter to the thinking and feeling heart. Septimania will synesthetically leave you seeing red and feeling blue and being green with envy, because it will strike you with the Emersonian truth that genius is the property of convincing us that what we knew all along is what we have just been told.