A Book of Memories is made up of three first-person narratives: The first, that of a young Hungarian writer and his fated love for a German poet; we also learn of the narrator's adolescence in Budapest, when he experiences the downfall of his once upper-class but now pro-Communist family. A second memoir, alternating with the first, is a novel the ...
A Book of Memories is made up of three first-person narratives: The first, that of a young Hungarian writer and his fated love for a German poet; we also learn of the narrator's adolescence in Budapest, when he experiences the downfall of his once upper-class but now pro-Communist family. A second memoir, alternating with the first, is a novel the narrator is composing about a refined Belle Epoque aesthete, whose anti-bourgeois transgressions seem like emotionally overcharged versions of the narrator's own experiences. A third voice is that of a childhood friend who, after the narrator's return to his homeland, offers an apparently more objective account of their friendship. Together these brilliantly coloured lives are integrated into a powerful work of tragic intensity.
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Publishers Weekly, 1997-04-21 First published in Budapest in 1986 after a five-year struggle with censors, this remarkable novel uses three narrators to tell the story of a young Hungarian writer tormented by his past: a childhood during the Stalinist 1950s; rebellion against his father (like N▀das's own father, a state prosecutor driven to suicide in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian uprising); and an adult, homosexual love affair in 1970s East Berlin. The principal narrator is the young writer himself. The second is his invented alter ego, the aesthete hero of a novel-in-progress set in turn-of-the-century Germany. The third narrator is a childhood friend of the young writer, reunited with him by chance in a Moscow hotel. These three voices give N▀das a rare purchase on what is perhaps his deepest subjectŠthe fate of the bildungsroman, the European novel as perfected by Proust and Mann, in a ruined Europe where the cultivation of soul has come to seem not only hopeless but absurdly beside the point. As the main narrator complains: "the continuity of recurring elements in time can be checked only with the notion we call speed; and that is what history is, nothing more; that is my own story; I made a mistake, and I kept making mistakes." These "mistakes" make for a series of brilliant, sustained inquiries into the varieties of sexual, artistic and political passion, inquiries thoroughly steeped in the author's nostalgiaŠnot just for a more dignified moment in history but for the private events that turn out only afterward to have determined the course of the narrators' lives. In the end it is this nostalgia that links N▀das most clearly with his modernist masters: "I plundered my own time, and wasn't displeased with the looted treasures of an imagined past, for it stopped me from being overwhelmed with the present." (June) FYI: This is the first of N▀das's works to appear in English. An earlier novel, The End of a Family Story, will be published by FSG in 1998. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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