Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
by Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix
An NYRB Classics OriginalBY THE AUTHOR OF THE DOOR, ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW’S TEN BEST BOOKS OF 2015
In prewar Budapest three families live side by side on gracious Katalin Street, their lives closely intertwined. A game is played by the four children in which Bálint, the promising son of the Major, invariably chooses Irén Elekes, the headmaster’s dutiful elder daughter, over her younger sister, the scatterbrained Blanka, and little Henriette Held, the daughter of the Jewish dentist.
Their lives are torn apart in 1944 by the German occupation, which only the Elekes family survives intact. The postwar regime relocates them to a cramped Soviet-style apartment and they struggle to come to terms with social and political change, personal loss, and unstated feelings of guilt over the deportation of the Held parents and the death of little Henriette, who had been left in their protection. But the girl survives in a miasmal afterlife, and reappears at key moments as a mute witness to the inescapable power of past events.
As in The Door and Iza’s Ballad, Magda Szabó conducts a clear-eyed investigation into the ways in which we inflict suffering on those we love. Katalin Street, which won the 2007 Prix Cévennes for Best European novel, is a poignant, somber, at times harrowing book, but beautifully conceived and truly unforgettable.
A gorgeous elegy for the joy and the life once shared among three neighboring families—the Elekes, the Temes, and the Helds—in prewar Budapest...Readers will be impressed by the brilliant texture and forthrightness of Szabó’s prose, along with the particular urgency she infuses into the humiliations and irrational longings that comprise her characters’ lives, even or especially during the shock of war....This is a brilliant and unforgettable novel.
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Three families, whose lives are inextricably linked by the street they inhabit, grapple with love and morality amid political upheaval. In English for the first time and impeccably translated by Rix, Szabó's quietly captivating novel excavates the tangled history of Hungary's capital from the portentous moments before the German occupation to its suffocating postwar regime….A visceral, sweeping depiction of life in the shuddering wake of wartime.
—Kirkus, starred review