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HU 1991

Iván Sándor, Arabeszk (Arabesque)

novel, 281 pages (Hungary, 1991)

The young woman waiting in the yard of the house in the forest is Vera, a costume designer. She is thirty, and comes from Budapest. At sixteen, she learned that her parents are actually her foster parents. Now she learns that her father, Zoltán Fazekas, long believed dead, is alive. She has been searching for him and has found him here.
Father and daughter each attempt to complete the life of the other so that a father–daughter relationship can develop. They begin to piece mosaic of their common life history, but the gaps are plentiful. Their fate is like a riddle without a solution.
Zoltán Fazekas’s life is burdened by memories of time spent in prison in the 1950s. He left the school where he was teaching because he was unwilling to relate falsely to his students the political realities that he had experienced. He moved to a house on Lake Balaton and works there as a forester.
Vera spends the night at this forest house with her gentleman friend Pista and her long-lost father. It is a remarkable night. Pista becomes jealous observing what seems to him to be an attraction between the young woman and the much older man far beyond the father–daughter relationship.
Vera accuses Zoltán of not having tried hard enough to find her after her birth. The reason, as she learns from him, is that he was in prison at the time of her birth, at which he mother died.
Both Zoltán and Vera long for love. Finally, they become so close that they experience the unexplained moments of the past as unbearable.
Further research reveals that Zoltán is in fact not Vera’s father, for not only did his wife die in childbirth, but his daughter as well. Vera’s real mother is not Zoltán’s wife. After Vera’s birth, her mother was returned to prison, where she awaited a political trial. As compensation for the death of his child, Vera was provided with false papers and “given” to Zoltán. But he was able to care for her only a short time, for in 1952 he was arrested. Vera was placed in a state-run orphanage, from which she later went to her foster parents. When Zoltán was freed during the 1956 uprising, he looked everywhere for his daughter. Since her birth record could no longer be found, he was unsuccessful in his search.
The desire finally to attain clarity gradually gives way to dismay at life’s caprices, for scarcely does Vera obtain her true identity when she learns that nothing can be resolved. The consciousness of her loss and longing for affection reach their height when the alleged father and alleged daughter discover that they are not related to each other. Again they lose each other, this time for good.

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“Arabesque” is a novel about lonely people and their search for identity in the confusion of Hungarian history during the second half of the twentieth century. Through the abortive attempt to identify with their past, the protagonists seek security and affection as their last hope.

Excerpts from reviews:

In “Arabesque” the desire for belonging and mutual affection is developed to such an extent that through it, original and epic forms arise that are rare in Hungarian literature.

Iván Sándor’s heroes do not wish to change the world; rather, they seek to find a place within it, and therefore, it is important for them both to understand history and interpret their own fates.

It would seem that it is Iván Sándor who most succesfully unites the tools of modern narrative prose with the events of Hungarian history in the twentieth century.

Kritiken / Reviews:

reviews still to come

More works of this writer:

Követés (Legacy)
Drága Liv (Dear Liv)
Századvégi történet (An End of Century Story)
Az Argoliszi-öböl. Roman (Working Title: The Argolian Gulf)
Az éjszaka mélyén (The Lives of Adam K.)

<-- Iván Sándor