Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: March 28, 2023
by Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix
An NYRB Classics Original
The April 2023 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club
In The Door, in Iza's Ballad, and in Abigail, Magda Szabó describes the complex relationships between women of different ages and backgrounds with an astute and unsparing eye. Eszter, the narrator and protagonist of The Fawn, may well be Szabó’s most fascinating creation.
Eszter, an only child, her father an eccentric aristocrat and steeply downwardly mobile flower breeder, her mother a harried music teacher failing to make ends meet, grows up poor and painfully aware of it in a provincial Hungarian town.
This is before World War II, and Eszter, as she tells her story of childhood loneliness and hunger, has forgotten no slight and forgiven nobody, least of all her beautiful classmate Angela, whose unforced kindness to her left the deepest wound.
And yet Eszter, post-war—which is when she has come to remember all these things—is a star of the stage, now settled in Budapest, where Angela, a devout Communist married to an esteemed scholar and translator of Shakespeare, also lives.
The Fawn unfolds as Eszter's confession, filled with the rage of a lifetime and born, we come to sense, of irreversible regret. It is a tale of childhood, of the theater, of the collateral damage of the riven twentieth century, of hatred, and, in the end, a tragic tale of love.
Szabó has created a character of defiant complexity and perverse, utterly plausible self-destructiveness. . . . Szabó’s psychological acuity, amply on display in her later novels, is thoroughly present here too.
—Claire Messud, Harper’s Magazine
Len Rix, the translator of three other novels by Szabó (1917–2007), renders Eszter’s blunt, merciless narration in smoothly cold prose.
—Nick Holdstock, TLS
This is a story of how a monster is made and of how successive disorienting, alienating crises in twentieth-century Hungarian history—and most of all the distorting crisis of poverty, the crisis of class inequality and class resentment—has made its monsters.
—Meghan Racklin, Asymptote
It is hard to choose among Magda Szabó's novels which is the most powerful or most unforgettable, but The Fawn stands with The Door, not only because one cannot put it down but because it is a study of love found and betrayed and the personal tragedies that in Hungary were made so acute by World War II.