Please take a moment to review Hachette Book Group's updated Privacy Policy: read the updated policy here.

The Photographer at Sixteen

The Photographer at Sixteen

“A truly remarkable book about identity, image and memory. It is fiercely compelling” EDMUND DE WAAL, author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes

A poet’s memoir of his mother that flows backwards through time, and through a tumultuous period of European history – a tender and yet unsparing autobiographical journey.

In July 1975, George Szirtes’ mother, Magda, died in an ambulance, on her way to hospital after attempting to take her own life. She was fifty-one years old. This memoir is an attempt to make sense of what came before, to re-construct who Magda Szirtes really was. The Photographer at Sixteen moves from her death, spooling backwards through her years as a mother, through sickness and exile in England, the family’s flight from Hungary in 1956, her time in two concentration camps, her girlhood as an ambitious photographer and her vanished family in Transylvania.

The woman who emerges, fleetingly, fragmentarily – with her absolutism, her contradictions, her beauty – is utterly captivating. What were the terrors and obsessions that drove her? The Photographer at Sixteen reveals a life that is at Magda Szirtes from the depths of the end to the comparable safety of the photographer’s studio where she first appears as a small child. It is a book born of curiosity, guilt and love.

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Memoirs

On Sale: 31st January 2019

Price: £12.99

ISBN-13: 9780857058522

Reviews

In this quest to understand the enigma of his mother 's life and death, George Szirtes travels back from personal memory to deeper history, as he reconstructs his family's tragedy-darkened past . . . An original, probingly thoughtful memoir whose restraint only increases its poignancy and impact
In this extraordinary, hybrid book - part memoir, part history, part poetic journey - Szirtes re-makes the life of his mother, tracing her childhood in Europe's darkest period to her life in Britain after the Hungarian uprising. He brilliantly captures how sometimes it's those closest to us who remain the most mysterious.
A truly remarkable book about identity, image and memory. It is fiercely compelling.
Magda Szirtes is intense, untameable, tantalising and compelling. George Szirtes is tender and astute in trying to understand her, percipient in analysing the enduring fragments of her life -- letters, tape-recordings, photographs, memories -- yet ever-aware of how little it is possible to know. The result is engrossing and profoundly moving.
Unforgettably sad . . . Szirtes has made [his mother's] monument. It is a courageous and remarkable achievement. I've read no memoir that moved me more.
Financial Times
A book full of warmth, grief, curiosity, wisdom, staggering anecdotes and a coming to terms with the vicissitudes of 20th-century history . . . [a] highly original telling of the author's mother's life and the heartrending events through which she lived.
New European
Szirtes uses his poet's eye to build images and details that bring his mother superbly to life . . . [this] is a beautifully written and utterly compelling narrative.
Sunday Times