by PÆ’ter "*Nâ€¡das ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 1998
An elliptical, episodic family history and bildungsroman from the Hungarian author of the acclaimed epic novel A Book of Memories (1997). Several stories collide and intertwine in Nâ€¡das's complex, spooky tale of an unnamed (and, one infers, autobiographical) narrator's recall of his confused early childhood in Hungary under Stalinist rule. In breathlessly flowing chapters composed of single long paragraphs, the boy (who's five at the beginning of the events he relates) remembers his awestruck (and perhaps incipiently sexual) adoration of his remote father, a conflicted widower and a quisling who betrays his own nearest and dearest to the rulers he serves but who is nevertheless branded a traitor. Elsewhere the boy recounts adventures with playmates that ironically echo his father's trials. Nâ€¡das also weaves in a highly charged and graphic, extended account of the boy's increasing sensitivity to mysterious natural phenomena (a tree frog, blades of grass), culminating in a really frightening description of the killing oft snake--signaling the loss of his innocence even at this early age. And, in the best pages here, the narrator memorializes his stoical grandmother and flamboyant grandfather, a vainglorious veteran of WWI and a spinner of marvelous yarns--many of which evoke ""the time of miracles,"" ""when giant monsters, serpent-demons, dragons and great ghosts were still living on earth,"" while others are delirious amalgams of Hungarian history and folklore, biblical stories, distorted genealogy, and anti-Semitic fantasy. The social and emotional ordeals of these distracted adults are thus viewed through a scrim of innocent wonderment and imperfect comprehension rendered even more intriguing by the dreamlike repetition of outlandishly suggestive images (a fish in a bathtub, a piano being played in a bombed-out house, a child unsure of ""what sex he or she was""). An intense, fascinating, probing psychological and symbolic work by one of Europe's finest contemporary novelists.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998
Page Count: 224
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998
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