A Book of Memories
is a novel within a novel. The outer shell of Hungarian author Peter Nadas's ambitious tale concerns a nameless Hungarian writer and his ménage à trois with an aging actress and a younger man in East Germany. While the contemporary writer's own story unfolds, he is busily at work on an historical novel about a German novelist named Thomas Thoenissen. As if a novel about a novelist writing about a novelist wasn't confusing enough, the two fictional writers have a great deal in common, including an unnatural affection for their mothers and a predilection for bisexual triangles. Throw into this already heady brew a great deal of Eastern European cold-war politics, and it becomes obvious that A Book of Memories
requires a serious commitment from the reader.
Moving in time between the old Stalinist era and post-communist Eastern Europe, Peter Nadas convincingly conveys the effects of communism, both as it happened and as it collapsed. In his unnamed narrator he creates a perfect conduit between two times; the narrator grew up in a privileged communist family, the son of the state prosecutor in a Stalinist regime. In chronicling the boy's passage from child to man, Nadas paints a vivid portrait of the secrecy, fear, and tension in a society in which the personal and the political are often one and the same.
From Library Journal
Published in Budapest in 1985 (and later in several languages), this powerful autobiographical novel is Nadas's first appearance in English. In the tradition of Proust, he has composed a psychological work that celebrates the primacy of emotions, discriminating between shades of feeling and exploring the deepest currents of relationship among his characters along with their physical, sexual, and political aspects. A young, hypersensitive Hungarian writer recalls his uneasy Budapest childhood and his Seventies sojourn in East Berlin, where he worked closely with a famous, emotionally unstable actress whose sometime lover, a German poet, became the love of his life; interspersed are chapters from a novel he is writing about a 19th-century German writer whose passions and experiences mirror his own. This rewarding but demanding work, ideal for readers with the leisure and appetite for rich, intensive analysis and fine literary craftsmanship, is essential for for all collections of significant contemporary literature.?Sister M. Anna Falbo, Villa Maria Coll. Lib., Buffalo,
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