The end of A family story by Peter Nadas












The end of a family story by Peter Nadas

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Egy családregény vége

Translator – Imre Goldstein

Source – Personel copy

Well, I pleased that this cycle of the year club Simon and Karen run is on 1977. As when I looked up books that had been published in the original language that year.One of the books I found was the debut novel by Peter Nadas, I reviewed his Magnus opus Parallel stories a few years ago. Nadas is one of the most regarded European writers. He own story reads like a novel he lost his mother at 13 and his father when he was 16 leaving Nadas and orphan. When his father committed suicide he was the head of a ministry that had been accused of various things.

When Grandpa died, grandmama filled the largest pot with water and put it on the stove. She poured two handfuls of salt into it and some black powder and then kept stirring . In the boiling brew she cooked her brown, gray , and dark-blue dresses untill they were black it was bad about the gray one, I liked that dress, especially when she wore it with the gold butterfly broch.Only her satin dress with the big flowers she didn’t cook, she left it the way it was – black flowers on a white background.

Death is a recurrent theme but like this passage I was remind of how Victorians mourned at times.

Like parallel stories, this is a novel set in the heart of Communist Hungry.This is a first thread and how they were able to break families But also it has a second and third part. The second line is a family saga. Simon the grandson of a family is in sent to an institution where everyone lives in silence. He keeps himself going with remembering over time his family story from his grandmother and grandfather at home the grandfather whom at times seem half dead. Had been one of these men that loved telling stories and tales these are what heartens the boy in a silent world. They also lead to the third thread in the book which is stories and thoughts around religion and communism. Both Catholic church and the Jews histories are told to the boy from his grandfather bring threads of their lives to Rome and the other way to Jerusalem. as a young boy becomes a man as he has also in this time lost his father and mother and being drawn into the adult world much earlier than he should have been Simon only solaces is remembering those tales and trying to draw some heart out of them.

One day up in the attic Grandpapa was telling me about our ancestors. Grandmama had brought fish from the market. She was very glad to have got one because Grandpapa loved fish. She stood in line for two hours, but she couldn’t go to the church with the fish.When she got wind of something being available she’d take me along, too. I didn’t like that because people would yell at her.” Look at her shoving and pushing!” “Don’t they know where the end of the line is ? Back there!” “Must be deaf””Where are you bulldozing your way to now ?”

Simon was used to help fetch bits from the market in those hard communist days of waiting being a sport this is later in the book showing the shifting feel of time at times in the book.

Like in parallel stories Nadas paints bleak times with a brush that makes his words float off the pages and through Simon and his world show even in the worst of times there is a glimmer of light to lead the way. It is a book that drifts through time this is also something he did in Parallel stories. Then there is Death and one must feel the fact that both Nadas himself and Simon had lost their parents the feelings of loss must be Nadas own and death is a recurrent theme in his books, lives being cut short. But also a sense of how the communist world of the 1950’s when the book is set would strangle those who did fit in and break the others who tried to be themselves.

Nobel Prize for Literature 2013 is Alice Munro

Well it’s that time of year again when we stare into the world of Literature and try to guess the winner of Nobel prize it is like shooting minnows in a swimming pool many names mentioned this time the usual Nadas ,Murakami ,Djebar and Munro .New Names like Alexievich ,Fosse and Marias this year who knows the betting seems to point to Svetlana Alexievich as favourite a late run on Thoig’o and Djebar at this time half hour before this time Nobel have provide an Embedded feed here

Thanks for Lisa for heads up on this

The winner this year is Alice Munro The short story writer

Here is her Wikipedia page 

And a link to the short story the bear came over the mountain on new yorker here 

Parallel stories by Peter Nadas

Parallel stories by Peter Nadas

Hungarian fiction

Translator Imre Goldstein

When I was asked earlier in the year to review Parallel stories I said yes, no problem and when it fell on the doorstep all 1100 plus pages of this modern epic I thought have I made a mistake ,but no I decide to set aside a couple of weeks to work my way through this modern masterpiece ,I finished it a few weeks ago but struggled with how to review it how to pay justice to Nadas vision and scope this book is deep and so multi layered it is hard to sum up with out drifting of into the individual and multiple story lines in this book so I then had to think of a different way of conveying the book and then it struck me the other day when I said in my thoughts how do you cover a master piece then it hit me describe the book as thou it was a piece of art using loose ideas and AI d be able to catch the spirit of the book .

Scene –

Well Nadas has sat down and drawn time from the centre point this is 1956 and 1961 two turning points in Hungary’s modern history in the context of this book the first the revolution that the russians so violently crushed ,the other is set in the bathhouse in Budapest where the three main characters that feature in the book talk about the city all have shady pasts and form the main body of the book .Nadas expands the lines out to recent history be it in Hungary or Germany and back to pre world war two and how this effect the Hungary on the fifties and sixties in this way showing how the events that happened in these two years happened and how the affected the future like a newtons cradle as what happened in 38 or 44 having a knock on effect via these two years to the modern world .



the sketches are the outlines of the three main characters there are a number of others but the three main ones are Hans von Wolkstein his mother was german and had a dark link to the Nazis regime in the war ,Agost from a connected Hungarian family his father served in a number of posts for different governments in Hungary and the last and maybe the darkest character is Andras Rott he is a spy and has very dark ideas .Like a spider’s web these three characters connect to most if not all of the people involved in the stories whether it is there parents stories or the lovers or lovers families all the little vignettes that make the most part of parallel stories connect to the three main stars of the narrative .

For a moment she thought Agost has gone mad .That he’d really lost his mind …..

and she would have loved tp love – no, worship his ankles ,his wrists hi every part ,his cock and every little bone in his body ,even impalpable things like the curve of the arches of his feet ,she adored him .

Agost future with about him .



Well this is a post modern book and like a classic post modern art the rule book of writing has been thrown out ,we drift from crime ,through highly erotic prose and into political drama oh and if you want any indication as to when people are talking forget it Nadas isn’t a fan of quotation marks but it is no harder than Ulysses in that regard .This book is like a collage of different styles that may on the surface seem chaotic , but as you work your way through they all seem to drop into place and in some ways the jarring styles works and yes it jumps from sex to the political but hey doesn’t real life a lot of the time ?


well when I first thought of the way to describe the book like art ,two things came to mind and that was Goya’s spanish french war pieces those horrific torture sketches and the art of Francis bacon ,like bacon Nadas takes the formal eastern european history especially hungarian history , which is the frame of the book like Bacon used the pope image or the crucifix but like Bacon Nadas has taken a personal view of these matters and yes here it is sex, sex and even more sex .This book is littered with sex ,good ,bad and downright vile sex but this is the flip people with no real freedom they find freedom in sex so that is what Nadas describes the end of book one is a novella length chapter that follows one grandiose act of sex between Agost and his future wife .So like the bacon at first you are a little scarred of the images but you then look beyond the picture to the painter and the same is said of Parallel stories Nadas describes the act of sex so well in places he must have had some practice whilst writing the book also the lexicon of rude parts is used to the max her bodily parts are described and over described at times .The connection to the Goya is politics how it plays a part war and conflict, from the nazi regime and the aftermath of that to communism and its faults .The Budapest revolution and lost freedom but how that one event affect the three main characters .

His black shirt and black pants ,wet with other mens urine and filthy with their sperm ,stuck to his back ,chest ,bottom and thighs they clung to him ,adhered to him like a skin ,white-hot with shame .

a scene from book two to give you an idea of the sex content of the book .



The final painting –

Well Parallel stories isn’t going to be to every ones taste to say the least it is not an easy read it needs time having read 2666 and Don Quixote in the last couple of years does it stack up against them yes long books tend to drift and diverge and this does maybe more than 2666 but not as much as Don Quixote .Is it gonna stand the test of time yes in my opinion it seems to lift the veils on the personnel lives of post war eastern Europeans more than any other book I ve read has this takes you in the bedroom even into the toilet more than you may want to know but sometimes you need a little uncomfortable in your reading not everything is comfortable in the world and nadas reminds you of this time and time again .It took Nadas eighteen years to write this book and Imre Goldstein a further five to translate her work on this book has made it accessible to the English reader Hungarian is a very hard language to translate from and she has done a sterling job here ,this is a strong IFFP contender and helps Nadas Nobel claims even more .

Have you a favourite Hungarian writer ?

Do you like post modern fiction ?

winstons post – the event of the decade

Rarely do I get really excited about a book and a writer but this book and its writer deserve to be shouted about ,this is the latest book from the hungarian writer Peter Nadas ,it took him 18 years to write the three volumes that make up parallel stories and it has taken the translator Imre Goldstein 5 years to bring the book to english .It is 1152 pages long so is one of the longest books in translation .The book covers post war eastern europe from end of war the Budapest uprising in 1956 to the fall of the berlin war .I think this book is probably going be the best insight into living behind the iron curtain in fiction .Its told through a number of characters from Germany , Hungary,with its main focus on two families one German ,one Hungarian there is a in-depth interview with him about the book here .The book is due out in November I will be reviewing it then over three days as three books that make the complete book .I feel this is a strong contender for the 2012 Independent foreign fiction prize as a book of this scale rarely comes round .  I think it’ll take a month for me to  get through the book .

What do you think ? 

August 2021


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