History of the World in Nine Guitars

Eric Orsenna and Thierry Arnoult
ISBN 9781566490467 (hardcover)
Published in November 1999
MSRP $10.95
As the world sits on the cusp between the past and the future, the guitar hero Eric Clapton finds his way to the archaeological site where Lucy, the grandmother of the human race, was found. For Africa's Omo Valley, on the first day, of the new millennium, will host a great concert in her honor, a performance unlike any other in history.
That night, Clapton's ancestors come to him in dreams: a wandering musician in ancient Egypt; Jose Fernandez, a conquistador who introduces the guitar to the Incas; Doctor Amat, whose guitar book helps cure Barcelona of the plague; Francesco Corbetta, guitar master of Louis XIV; Luigi, whose guitar dares to duel the puissant violin of Paganini; the blacks of the American South who sailed on their sorrow, the guitar as their ship, whose shared voyage became the blues; Django Reinhardt, the Gypsy with the demonic left hand; and Jimi Hendrix, expressing through his stratocaster the madness of the world. They are all Clapton's ancestors – perhaps different moments of himself – and his guitar is a horse on which to journey through the centuries.
In the morning, the dawn of the future, musicians and merrymakers from every country and every era converge on the famed basin. Doctor Amat, Master Corbette, Django, Paganini, songsters from the Mississippi Delta... music is the ally of the beginnings. No need for words, or gestures; one note, one chord is enough. The great concert begins, the notes of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” float toward the horizon – a celebration of Lucy, of life, of music.

Erik Orsenna has enjoyed one of the most remarkable political and literary careers in French history. For years he was former President Francois Mitterand's speechwriter and a State adviser; he is a distinguished economist and is currently President of the prestigious Ecole Nationale Superieure du Paysage at Versailles. Orsenna is also an editor at Librarie Artheme Fayard and a member of the committee of the Comedie Francaise; he is a prolific author who co-wrote the screenplay for Indochine and won the 1988 Prix Goncourt, France's equivalent of the Pulitzer, for L'exposition coloniale, which was published by HarperCollins in English as Love and Empire. This is his first book to appear in the United States since his election to the Academie Francaise in 1998, where he assumed the seat of the late Jacques Cousteau.