Second novel but first US appearance for Hungarian author Bozai: a witty tale that imagines the travails that befall a middle-aged atheist schoolteacher who finds herself crowned with a halo.
Anna Levay is one of those timid, gray souls who inhabit the faculty lounges of public schools across the globe. Thrifty (of necessity), diligent, and prudent, she is the sort of woman who allows herself the luxury of nothing but bath salts. Why? Because a colleague from the physics department once told her that the suds insulate the water and help conserve heat. The comfortable routine of her life is changed when she emerges from the tub one night to discover a nimbus of light encircling her head. After convincing herself that it is not a hallucination (which takes some time), she carefully takes the halo’s temperature (to make sure it is not hot enough to start a fire) and goes to bed. The next morning it’s still there—stranger still, no one else except babies and animals can see it. Anna tries to go about her life as usual, hoping that her delusion will eventually subside. Fat chance. A series of strange events, all somehow linked to Anna, begin to occur in her small coastal town. Fish jump out of the water and ground themselves. Unexplained healings take place in the river nearby. Anna begins involuntarily to quote long passages from the Bible in the middle of everyday conversations. The corrupt mayor (an ex-Communist turned entrepreneur) and his sidekick, a venal neurologist, are concerned. They had grandiose and lucrative plans to turn the city into a world-class tourist attraction but now find themselves swamped with a tidal influx of sick and handicapped pilgrims. Lourdes is not the kind of resort the mayor had in mind. So he and the neurologist conspire to get Anna put quietly out of the way. Will she go quietly? Never underestimate the staying power of tenured faculty.
A sharp and biting satire of the new face of Eastern Europe: a bestseller in Hungary and Germany that deserves a good run over here.