The end of a family story, Péter Nádas. The Hungarian author’s first novel features a storyteller at its heart, a young boy’s rebellious, irreverent grandfather. “Grandpa used to tell me lots of stories. But not fairy tales, real stories,” the unnamed narrator recalls. The grandfather tells about his years in the army during World War II, about his youth (“Shall I tell you the story of the suit?”), and often he draws on the Bible for material, mixing psalms and scripture into tales of fairies and fishermen.
Fractured Hungarian history, bizarre genealogies-his stories are marvelous yet disturbing.
These yarns are in no way the only stories at work in Nádas’s novel. At its center is the narrator’s relationship with his elusive, undemonstrative father, a Stalinist functionary who betrays friends and family and later branded a traitor by those he worked for.
What makes The End of a Family History so powerful is Nádas’s use of the child narrator as a filter for the adult exposure of Communist Hungary.
People die, people are arrested, people disappear-events that adults may rationalize but that children find simply incomprehensible.
Written in chapter-long paragraphs and overflowing with fantastic imagery (octopuses that swim through the air; a fish in a bathtub; a secret garden) Nádas’s novel is heavily symbolic, psychologically acute, and infinitely compelling.
Péter Nádas (born 14 October 1942) is a Hungarian writer, playwright, essayist. Other novels are Book of Memories (which has lead comparisims to Proust), the three-volume Parallel Stories (I: The Mute Realm, II: In the Depths of Night, III: A Breath of Freedom), Lovely Tale of Photography, Yearbook, On Heavenly and Earthly Love, and A Dialogue with Richard Swartz. Death is a recurrent theme in Nádas’ work, particularly in Own death, based on his experience of clinical death.
His writing has been described as intellectual, detailed, strong, innovative and demanding.