WINNER of the 2018 PEN Translation Prize
By Magda Szabó
The lives of three intertwined families in prewar Budapest are shattered in the German occupation - by the bestselling author of THE DOOR.
WINNER OF THE 2018 PEN TRANSLATION PRIZE - BY 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, sombre, at times harrowing book, but beautifully conceived and truly unforgettable.
Translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix
Magda Szabó was born in Debrecen, eastern Hungary, in 1917, and began her working life as a teacher. From 1949 onwards her work was banned, but she burst onto the literary scene in 1958 with the publication of Fresco and The Dawn. Katalin Street was published in 1969 and Abigail in 1970. In 1987, publication of The Door brought her international recognition and was the winner of the Prix Femina and the Mondello Prize. She died in 2007. In 2016 The Door was chosen as Best Book of the Year by the New York Times.
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- Publication date:
10 Jan 2019
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A gorgeous elegy for the joy and the life once shared among three neighboring families in prewar Budapest...This is a brilliant and unforgettable novel. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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 Reviews (starred review)
In Katalin Street, the past is never dormant, never settled. The past is an open wound, a life force busily shaping an increasingly bewildering present. In describing Henriette's plight, Szabó writes: 'From the moment she arrived she had been left to work out the rules and the customs of the place entirely by herself.' In this extraordinary novel, the same could be said for the living. — Laura van den Berg, New York Times Book Review
[Katalin Street] is a brightly shining star in the Szabó universe, offering us a glimpse of Eastern Europe at a time when we need to be reminded of what happened there more than ever — Andrew Martino, World Literature Today