By Richard Powers
Published by W. W. Norton & Company
In Orfeo, Powers tells the story of a man journeying into his past as he desperately flees the present. Seventy-year old avant-garde composer Peter Els opens his front door one evening to find the police on his doorstep. His home microbiology lab – the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to discover musical patterns in DNA strands – has come to the attention of Homeland Security. Panicked by the raid, Els flees and turns fugitive, waiting for the evidence to clear him and for the alarm to blow over. But alarm turns to national hysteria, as the government promises a panicked nation that the ‘Bioterrorist Bach’ will be found and brought to trial. As Els feels the noose around him tighten, he embarks on a cross-country trip to visit, one last time, the people he loves, those who shaped his musical journey. Through the help of his ex-wife, his daughter, and his longtime artistic collaborator, Els comes up with a plan to turn his disastrous collision with national security into one last, resonant, calamitous artwork that might reach an audience beyond his wildest dreams.