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Book Discussions (general) > Katalin Street, by Magda Szabo

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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Dec 06, 2018 12:11PM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Katalin Street

Katalin Street

Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Pages: 272
Translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix
Originally published in 1969.

In prewar Budapest three families live side by side on gracious Katalin Street, their lives closely intertwined. A game is played by the four children in which Bálint, the promising son of the major, invariably chooses Irén Elekes, the headmaster’s dutiful elder daughter, over her younger sister, the scatterbrained Blanka, and little Henriette Held, the daughter of the Jewish dentist.

Their lives are torn apart in 1944 by the German occupation, which only the Elekes family survives intact. The postwar regime relocates them to a cramped Soviet-style apartment and they struggle to come to terms with social and political change, personal loss, and unstated feelings of guilt over the deportation of the Held parents and the death of little Henriette, who had been left in their protection. But the girl survives in a miasmal afterlife, and reappears at key moments as a mute witness to the inescapable power of past events.

As in The Door and Iza’s Ballad, Magda Szabó conducts a clear-eyed investigation into the ways in which we inflict suffering on those we love. Katalin Street, which won the 2007 Prix Cévennes for Best European novel, is a poignant, somber, at times harrowing novel, but beautifully conceived and truly unforgettable.


message 2: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Description added above.


message 3: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Cover added above.


message 4: by Louise (last edited Feb 10, 2019 08:40AM) (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
If you are contemplating whether or not to read this book for our March discussion, here is a little bit of extra info. that may spur you on.

About the author:

Magda Szabó (1917–2007) is considered one of Hungary’s greatest novelists. Her novels, dramas, essays, and poetry have been published in forty-two countries, and in 2003 she was awarded the Prix Femina Étranger for The Door, which was selected as one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of 2015.
NYRB Classics also publishes The Door and Szabó’s novel Iza's Ballad, and will be publishing Abigail in 2019.

You can read more on the NYRB website: https://www.nyrb.com/collections/magd...

About the translator:

Len Rix is a poet, critic, and former literature professor. In 2006 he was awarded the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize for his translation of The Door.

More about Len Rix on the NYRB website: https://www.nyrb.com/collections/len-rix


message 5: by Louise (last edited Feb 10, 2019 08:42AM) (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
ABOUT THIS BOOK
As with The Door, which was selected as one of The New York Times 10 Best
Books of 2015, Magda Szabó’s stunning novel Katalin Street explores the ways
in which history, ambition, and loss test the bonds between human beings. Here,
Szabó presents the story of three Budapest families, all of whom live side by side
on Katalin Street, and the shifts in their intertwining lives before, during, and
after World War II. Told through the perspectives of various members of the
three families, the novel weaves an unforgettable tale about the triumphs and
limitations of love, the tyranny of the past, and how great moments in history can
alter one’s sense of home forever


message 6: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Dunn | 71 comments I loved The Door and am really looking forward to Katalin. I just got it and I'm going to start reading it shortly. I think she's amazing.


message 7: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 284 comments I’m 73 pages in and I love it. This will be another 5 star Szabó for me.


message 8: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
I'm just about to start it.


message 9: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 284 comments If I hadn’t had a busy weekend I would have finished it.


message 10: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 284 comments Loved it. 5 stars.


message 11: by Louise (last edited Feb 12, 2019 06:15PM) (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
I had started it and was enjoying it, albeit being a little confused, then I noticed that my page numbers didn't follow on my ereader. The chapters "appeared" mixed up. Since the story was already confusing enough, I didn't want to read it out of order and get more confused so I got in touch with customer service at Kobo. After spending a couple of hours trying to fix the problem, all I ended up with was returning the book for credit, and losing all my collections on my ereader. So instead of getting some reading done last night, I wasted HOURS with customer service and resetting my ereader the way it was. I went to bed at 1am and get up at 5:30 this morning, very cranky. Now I have to wait until my paperback copy arrives from Amazon to continue....so I started another book. Bummed nonetheless.


message 12: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 284 comments You have my sincere sympathy. I have loads of patience for most things, but none for electronics and call center technicians. I’m not rude to them, i do all my profane muttering while navigating the menu.


message 13: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Dunn | 71 comments That would have made me crazy, Louise.


message 14: by Seana (new)

Seana | 407 comments I started it today and think I will really enjoy it, as a fan of Szabo already for The Door. Also, it is short.


message 15: by retired.linda (new)

retired.linda Started it today. My first Szabo!


message 16: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Started it today. My first Szabo!"

Enjoy!


message 17: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 24 comments I read the first section last night, and it seems very different than The Door and Iza's Ballad so far, but intriguing nonetheless. Looking forward to the discussion.


message 18: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) When does discussion begin? I finished last night. No one will be disappointed.


message 19: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Randolph wrote: "When does discussion begin? I finished last night. No one will be disappointed."

Midnight tonight :-)


message 20: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
I finished it a couple weeks ago then decided to read Iza's Ballad as well.


message 21: by Cordelia (new)

Cordelia (anne21) | 12 comments Read up to page 40. So far - wonderful.


message 22: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 284 comments I’m tempted to say this is my favorite of the three I’ve read, but I think that’s only because it’s the one I’ve just read. I am so glad another Szabó is being released this year!


message 23: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 24 comments Just finished the 1944 section and it has hooked me. I can't believe it took so long for a writer this good to be translated.


message 24: by Jason (new)

Jason (uberzensch) | 83 comments I’m excited to see these comments. I loved The Door and Isa’s Ballad, so to hear such high praise for this one is great.

Will be starting (and finishing) soon!


message 25: by Merilee (new)

Merilee (merileeo) | 18 comments OK, my arm’s been twisted. Ordered it on kindle. Loved The Door!


message 26: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Today we start our discussion on Katalin Street! No spoiler alerts needed so if you haven't finished it yet, you may want to avoid this thread until you do.

So who has read it, and who is reading it and who is planning on reading it? Is this your first Szabo or have you read some of her other books (which are all excellent might I add).

I will post some links about the author later tonight.


message 27: by retired.linda (new)

retired.linda Actually a good choice for Women's History Month too!


message 28: by Louise (last edited Mar 01, 2019 10:55AM) (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
A bit about Magda Szabo, whom I have seen referred to as "one of Hungary's best-known writers", "Hungary’s foremost woman novelist", and "one of the giants of contemporary Hungarian literature".

From the NYRB website: https://www.nyrb.com/collections/magd...

Her obituary from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2007...

I like the photos included in this article: http://reformatus.hu/mutat/irregular-...

And then good ole' Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magda_S...


message 29: by Seana (new)

Seana | 407 comments Yes, I've finished and am looking forward to talking about it. My offline book group read The Door a year or so ago, which we all were impressed with, so I was looking forward to this one. I found it quite absorbing. I found Henriette's afterlife adventures a little confusing, and would love to hear other people's thoughts on that part of the book. Reminded me a bit of Lincoln in the Bardo, but without the possibility of escape.


message 30: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) Read the book straight through then go back and read PLACES again.


message 31: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 24 comments I read The Door years ago - shortly after it was published in Britain. That was impressive, but in some ways Iza's Ballad was even better. So I will now look out for any new translations.


message 32: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Seana wrote: "I found Henriette's afterlife adventures a little confusing, and would love to hear other people's thoughts on that part of the book.."

Yes I found some parts confusing too, especially when she goes to visit Balint near the end.


message 33: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
An interview with Magda Szabo: https://funzine.hu/eng/i-dont-like-be...


message 34: by Laurel (new)

Laurel | 3 comments This is the first of her works that I will be reading. Have a book to finish for book club next week and then will be able to read it. Looking forward.


message 35: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Laurel wrote: "This is the first of her works that I will be reading. Have a book to finish for book club next week and then will be able to read it. Looking forward."

It is always so exciting being on the cusp of discovering a new author. I am sure you will love her Laurel.


message 36: by Seana (new)

Seana | 407 comments Isa's Ballad is definitely on my list, though I may pace myself a bit,

Randolph, I will go back and read Places.

Louise, thanks for the interview. I love reading author interviews. Will make time for this soon.

I found one part of the afterworld particularly insightful, which is that the older people are more interested in visiting the people from their own childhood than they are in visiting with their own children. Just as Henriette looks back, they too look back and try to recreate their vivid past.


message 37: by Louise (last edited Mar 02, 2019 07:14AM) (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Seana wrote: "Isa's Ballad is definitely on my list, though I may pace myself a bit,."

That's the smart way of doing it. I always have trouble pacing myself. If I find an author I like I want to immediately read everything they have written.

There is one Quebec author I LOVE. Canada's best IMO. Gaétan Soucy. He only wrote 4 novels before his untimely death. I read 3 in short order but I am very reluctant to read the last one because once I have read it, I will have nothing left of his to look forward to.


message 38: by Louise (last edited Mar 02, 2019 07:16AM) (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Question 1. Magda Szabó’s narrator opens the novel with a meditation about growing old. Of the residents of Katalin Street she writes, “But no one had told them that the most frightening thing of all about the loss of youth is not what is taken away, but what is granted in exchange” (1). What have the characters in the novel lost? What, in their older age, have they been granted in exchange?


message 39: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) This may sound trite, but they exchange their innocence for knowledge. I really wouldn’t really call this a trade, but more of an exchange because there is no barter with time.


message 40: by retired.linda (new)

retired.linda I think the characters gained the understanding of how important friends, family, and home can be, especially as they are taken away. Living in Hungary during the war and the Soviet era must have been horrendous, and Szabo takes us right there.
I did re-read Places again. I only wish it had been placed at the end of the story instead of the beginning. Would have made more sense.


message 41: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 24 comments I finished the book yesterday, and have just finished reviewing it here - My review


message 42: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Hugh wrote: "I finished the book yesterday, and have just finished reviewing it here - My review"

Great review! Thanks for sharing Hugh.


message 43: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "I did re-read Places again. I only wish it had been placed at the end of the story instead of the beginning. Would have made more sense..."

I was so confused at the beginning. Certainly Szabo did that on purpose. Why do you think? Are we meant to go back and read Places once we finish the book? It certainly does make more sense once we know the story and the characters.


message 44: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Randolph wrote: "This may sound trite, but they exchange their innocence for knowledge. I really wouldn’t really call this a trade, but more of an exchange because there is no barter with time."

What about Henriette? She doesn't grow old so does she remain innocent? Does she gain any knowledge?


message 45: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 24 comments Henriette's role is interesting. Perhaps she personifies the guilt/conscience of the surviving even though she is almost pure innocence. Also a device that allows the exiled Blanka a parity with the occupants of the crowded flat...


message 46: by Virginia (new)

Virginia | 1 comments Loved, loved this book. Wish I could find more reads like this author.


message 47: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Virginia wrote: "Loved, loved this book. Wish I could find more reads like this author."

Have you read her other novels? The Door and Iza's Ballad. They are equally good. And a new one is coming out soon Abigail.


message 48: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 24 comments I am hoping there will be more to follow after Abigail - some of the other books mentioned on her Wikipedia page sound very interesting.


message 49: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
I see that The Fawn and Tell Sally... have been translated into English but not by NYRB.

I hope that Freskó will eventually be translated. It's her first novel, which was published in 1958. "The novel tells the story of a puritan family coming together for a funeral, while examining questions of hypocrisy and reflecting on Hungarian history."


message 50: by Cordelia (last edited Mar 04, 2019 03:36PM) (new)

Cordelia (anne21) | 12 comments Louise wrote: "Virginia wrote: "Loved, loved this book. Wish I could find more reads like this author."

Have you read her other novels? The Door and Iza's Ballad. They are equally..."


My library also has The Fawn and night of the pig-killing by Magda Szabó. Both in english


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