A Book of Memories
This extraordinary magnum opus seems at first to be a confessional autobiographical novel in the grand manner, claiming and extending the legacy of Proust and Mann. But it is more: Peter Nadas has given us a superb contemporary psychological novel that comes to terms with the ghosts, corpses, and repressed nightmares of Europe’s recent past. “A Book of Memories” is made up of three first-person narratives: the first that of a young Hungarian writer and his fated love for a German poet; we also learn of the narrator’s adolescence in Budapest, when he experiences the downfall of his once-upper-class but now pro-Communist family and of his beloved but repudiated father, a state prosecutor who commits suicide after the 1956 uprising. A second memoir, alternating with the first, is a novel the narrator is composing about a refined Belle Epoque aesthete, whose anti-bourgeois transgressions seem like emotionally overcharged versions of the narrator’s own experiences. A third voice is that of a childhood friend who, after the narrator’s return to his homeland, offers an apparently more objective account of their friendship. Together these brilliantly colored lives are integrated in a powerful work of tragic intensity.