A BOOK OF MEMORIES by Péter Nádas

A BOOK OF MEMORIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An imposing novel of ideas closely related in spirit to the great fictional syntheses of Hermann Broch and Robert Musil, as well as to the autobiographical masterpiece that is its specific inspiration: Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Originally published in 1986 in N†das's native Hungary, this big book offers a startlingly wide-angled view of a young Hungarian writer (never named) whose pursuit of artistic happiness and success is intricately counterpointed against his country's struggles with Stalinist communism, climaxing in the revolution of 1956. In the first of several separate narratives, the writer describes his troubled youth during the 1950s, focusing on his explosive relations with his pro-communist father, a state prosecutor who committed suicide in 1956 (as did N†das's own father)--and also recounts his Bohemian lifestyle some 20 years later in Berlin, where he carries on love affairs with Thea, a temperamental actress, and also her lover, an equally mercurial poet named Melchior. A second story, which parallels the writer's own, is narrated by his fictional invention Thomas, the protagonist of a novel-in-progress set in Germany in the early 1900s. A third story is told by a boyhood friend of the writer's who happens to meet him in Moscow many years after their youth, and continues to think about the writer following the latter's death. His account contradicts the writer's earlier one--but it's made clear to us that the contradictions may be explained by the differences in personality and outlook of these two narrators. N†das's brilliant book is an epic of uncertainty, a dazzling fictional demonstration of the relativity of our efforts to understand ourselves and our world. To that end, the author and his counterparts suggest a series of ingenious discriminations between the unexamined life led by the European bourgeoisie and the involuted self-consciousness- -and, by implication, self-righteousness--of artistic responses to it. One of the major contemporary European novels.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-374-11543-5
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997




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