Sunday, August 28, 2011

Author Insides - Natalie Jacobs

Natalie Jacobs was a serious writer all her life. In 2008 she died suddenly at age 35. She left a body of unpublished work, including a fictional biograpy of Franz Schubert entitled When Your Song Breaks the Silence. “An die Freude” is a chapter of the novel. It describes the famous premiere performance in Vienna of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, here seen through eyes of an admiring Schubert. "An die Freude" was featured in the Winter 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase.

“An die Freude”- The Story Behind the Story


by Judith Jacobs

“An die Freude” is a novel excerpt that appears in the Winter 2010 issue. It is a chapter from a fictional biography of Franz Schubert. This is Natalie Jacobs’s first published work and it is appearing posthumously: Natalie died suddenly of viral myocarditis in January, 2008. At 35, she was only four years older than Schubert himself was when he died.

My daughter Natalie Jacobs was a writer as early in her life as I can remember. She once explained that she used writing as solace for her unhappiness growing up, that it was absolutely vital for her. She wrote on many topics over the years and once told me that she somehow felt an affinity to Schubert. When she was eleven, she wrote a story about the composer as a young child trying myopically to interact with his family and surroundings.

When Natalie passed away, we gave her computer to her longtime friend in Portland, OR where Natalie had moved. Soon after Natalie’s death, her friend told us of a large body of writing she had discovered on its hard disk. To the great surprise of all of us, Natalie had left not only several short stories but a novella about the adventures of a feckless young man from Devon, England, and a novel-length fictional biography of Schubert (later to be entitled “When Your Song Breaks the Silence,” a line from one of Schubert’s lieder).

In her other work, Natalie usually wrote about what she knew: she had spent her junior year abroad in England and taken a subsequent trip there, and she drew from these experiences to write about Andy Godwin in the novella, “Andy’s Story.” Later, when she moved to Portland she became deeply involved in alt-country and other music, both performing, composing, and attending concerts and this informed her most recent story, about Jim Shaughnessy, a young Portland musician. But the creation of “When Your Song Breaks the Silence” is a mystery. Natalie was not especially interested in classical music. She had never been to Vienna. But anyone reading her Schubert fiction would have trouble believing this; Natalie seems to get inside the composer’s head as he lives and works. She had a strong scholarly bent, so it is not quite as surprising how thoroughly she researched the history and the music scene of Schubert’s time. Years ago, she had sent us two or three stories about Schubert which seemed part of a longer narrative. Little did we know there was a finished novel, nor did we know when she completed it.

It may have been a combination of unsureness and a lack of persistence that prevented Natalie from sending her work out for publication. She did not consider herself a writer first and foremost; at the time she died she was completing several years of training in midwifery and intended eventually to practice it. It remains now for us her family to bring her work to the audience she never found herself. We are grateful to Battered Suitcase for helping us begin to put together Natalie’s literary memorial.