Iza's Ballad by Magda Szabo
(New York Review Books Classics)

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In any event, only after the first section of the four-part novel is over — at about Page 70 — does the book grow teeth. And, my, what sharp teeth they are.
-NY Times

Synopsis

From the author of The Door, selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2015

An NYRB Classics Original

Like Magda Szabó’s internationally acclaimed novel The Door, Iza’s Ballad is a striking story of the relationship between two women, in this case a mother and a daughter. Ettie, the mother, is old and from an older world than the rapidly modernizing Communist Hungary of the years after World War II. From a poor family and without formal education, Ettie has devoted her life to the cause of her husband, Vince, a courageous magistrate who had been blacklisted for political reasons before the war. Iza, their daughter, is as brave and conscientious as her father: Active in the resistance against the Nazis, she is now a doctor and a force for progress. Iza lives and works in Budapest, and when Vince dies, she is quick to bring Ettie to the city to make sure her mother is close and can be cared for. She means to do everything right, and Ettie is eager to do everything to the satisfaction of the daughter she is so proud of. But good intentions aside, mother and daughter come from two different worlds and have different ideas of what it means to lead a good life. Though they struggle to accommodate each other, increasingly they misunderstand and hurt each other, and the distance between them widens into an abyss. . . .
 

About Magda Szabo

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Magda Szabó (1917-2007) was born into an old Protestant family in Debrecen, Hungary's "Calvinist Rome," in the midst of the great Hungarian plain. Szabó, whose father taught her to converse with him in Latin, German, English, and French, attended the University of Debrecen, studying Latin and Hungarian, and went on to work as a teacher throughout the German and  Soviet occupations of Hungary in 1944 and 1945. In 1947, she published two volumes of poetry, Bárány (The Lamb), and Vissza az emberig (Return to Man), for which she received the Baumgartner Prize in 1949. Under Communist rule, this early critical success became a liability, and Szabó turned to writing fiction: her first novel, Freskó (Fresco), came out  in 1958, followed closely by Az oz (The Fawn). In 1959 she won the József Attila Prize, after which she went on to write many more novels, among them Katalin utca (Katalin Street, 1969), Ókút (The Ancient Well, 1970), Régimódi történet (An Old-Fashioned Tale, 1971), and Az ajtó (The Door, 1987). Szabó also wrote verse for children, plays, short stories, and nonfiction, including a tribute to her husband, Tibor Szobotka, a writer and translator of Tolkien and Galsworthy who died in 1982. A member of the European Academy of Sciences and a warden of the Calvinist Theological Seminary in Debrecen, Magda Szabó died in the town in which she was born, a book in her hand. In 2017 NYRB Classics will publish Iza's Ballad (1963).Len Rix is a poet, critic, and former literature professor who has translated five books by Antal Szerb, including the novel Journey by Moonlight (available as an NYRB Classic) and, most recently, the travel memoir The Third Tower. In 2006 he was awarded the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize for his translation of The Door.Ali Smith was born in Inverness, Scotland, in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. Her latest novel is How to Be Both.
 
Published October 18, 2016 by NYRB Classics. 352 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Iza's Ballad
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Lauren Groff on Nov 11 2016

Some books, like some people, require great patience and attention to fully understand their complexity and beauty. Szabo teaches us lucky readers this very lesson through “Iza’s Ballad,” one that perfect but songless Iza could never learn.

Read Full Review of Iza's Ballad (New York Review... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Lauren Groff on Nov 13 2016

In any event, only after the first section of the four-part novel is over — at about Page 70 — does the book grow teeth. And, my, what sharp teeth they are.

Read Full Review of Iza's Ballad (New York Review... | See more reviews from NY Times
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