on ‘katalin street’ by magda szabó

Katalin_StreetNick Holdstock at 3:AM Magazine:

Reading the short, melancholy Katalin Street made me remember the time when machine-gun wielding Yugoslav soldiers removed me from a train in the middle of the night. It also made me recall being robbed by two men in the shadows of Tahrir Square in Cairo, how close they held a knife to my face as I lay trembling on the ground. I wouldn’t say these were defining moments in my life, but they certainly cast a long shadow. I cannot walk down any street at night without being startled by the sound of footsteps approaching behind me, not even the quiet, familiar dead end street I live on. The persistence of trauma is the dominant theme of Katalin Street, Magda Szabó’s 1969 novel, now available in a new translation by Len Rix. It shows the way in which the lives of the inhabitants of three adjacent Budapest households in the 1930s and 1940s are badly warped by the death of one of the children during the Second World War, so much so that many of them seem to “die long before their real death”.

Though Szabó, who died in 2007, had a long, distinguished career in Hungary, her work only began to reach a wide readership in English after Rix’s translation of her novel, The Door, appeared in 2005. The Door is a confessional story about a painful, yet intensely close relationship between a writer and Emerence, the elderly woman who works as her cleaner. At times the novel verges on the supernatural: Emerence seems able to control the writer’s dog even when she is absent.

more here.