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Revulsion was published in Hungary in 1947, but its technique and sensibility places it in the mainstream of the older European novel. One finds here something of Maupassant's Une Vie, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and the Lawrence of The Rainbow and The Fox. The unspecified time scheme seems to be the period between the World Wars, and the tale chronicles the unhappy domestic life of a young woman unable to respond to the sexual ardor of her husband or indeed any man. It is told in the first person, and since it is written by a man, the novel, with its successful feminine intonations, is somewhat of a tour de force. It is overlong; the plotting every now and then dips into melodrama; the subsidiary characters are provincial dolts or schemers; and the aura of psychological frustrations coupled with realistic farm life detail doesn't always jell. Still it makes compelling reading, largely due to the hard, quasi-sardonic observations of the heroine, a rural goddess who would have been much better off in a nunnery or as a career woman. The author wisely sidesteps Freudian touches and lets the events unfold through the mind of Nelli, from her girlhood through her marriage to the well-meaning, hot-blooded, boring Sanyi, forever unable to understand his wife and incessantly bothering her in bed. With perhaps poetic justice, Nelli accidentally smothers him to death during an unwilling embrace. The honeymoon is amusingly done; the sketches of small town intrigue are vivid enough; and the portraits of Nelli's mother, a professional martyr, of her maiden aunts, and her moody in-laws, catch that right note of suppressed fury and baffled concern which usually denote the family ritual.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1965
Publisher: Grove