Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Peter Nadas Profile

In the new york times a profile of Hungarian novelist Peter Nadas whose collection of essays and stories Fire and Knowledge has just come out in English.

Americans tend to be amnesiacs. Europeans, however, worry history, and no writer in Europe today has dealt more eloquently with the obligations and moral conundrums of memory, private and collective, than the Hungarian novelist and essayist Peter Nadas. Berlin, it happens, is where he came years ago to work on what turned into “A Book of Memories,” which, when the Hungarian censors finally consented in 1986 to let it be published, invited comparison to Proust and Thomas Mann, and caused Susan Sontag, after its translation into English 11 years later, to call it “the greatest novel written in our time, and one of the great books of the century.”

Also an old article about his mammoth masterpiece A Book of Memories . I haven't read it but it is on my to-read list. The article also has this amusing insight:
The eroticism of ''A Book of Memories'' was one of the reasons, along with stylistic echoes of Thomas Mann, that the novel was such a success in Germany, he said.

For German readers, who admire him so much that almost all his short stories, theater pieces, post-1989 nonfiction essays and an autobiographical explanation of how he wrote ''A Book of Memories'' have been translated, the eroticism represented a welcome counterpoint.

''German literature,'' he said, ''is a very clever literature, but in it, humans don't exist from the chest down.''


Anonymous said...

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antonia said...

i did like the book of memories a lot when i was younger and then i read all i could get from Nadas. Lots of great psychological insights and i do think this connection to Th. Mann is as usual idle talk from the reviewers. That said i somehow seldom managed to read his books for a second time, found them lacking some "metaphysical" depth and also a bit sentimental, but on the whole they are a lot better of what is ususally being sold these days and they are easy to read & melancholy and what he is really good at is describing the world of children, their fears and little secrets and dreams and phantasies. These passages about children or teenagers belong to the greatest in his books.

Alok said...

I will check out his THe End of Family Story soon. Was just looking at it in the library. Book of Memories seems to be too big a book for me right now.

Agree, 99% of the time such comparison with Proust and Mann and Joyce doesn't mean anything. Except perhaps the similarity in size...