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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The cold-heartedness of Iza in Szabo's Iza's Ballad

In the end, Magda Szabo's novel "Iza's Ballad" is a smart and subtle depiction of a strained and strange mother-daughter relationship. I won't go through the sometimes surprising plot details that complete this novel, but will note that as the novel progresses we become increasingly aware of the narcissism and the struggles for Iza, as played out in her relationship with her mother, Ettie (?) Szocs. Only at the end do we truly see how monstrous Iza can be - primarily in re her mother, but also in her relationships w/ men (except for her beloved father). This is a great novel for analysts to read and to try to make sense of: Iza seems to others, and of course to herself, to be a devoted and self-sacrificing daughter, lavishing her mother w/ comforts and with money, bringing her mother to live in her Budapest apartment shortly after she is widowed. But only gradually do we understand how cold-hearted Iza can be, how taking her of her mother serves her own, not her mother's, needs. There are also subtle indications throughout the novel of Iza's involvement in wartime resistance - presumably in resistance to the Nazi occupation of Hungary. Szabo gives few details - just a hint or mention now and again of Iza surreptitiously distributing leaflets or carrying grenades in a suitcase: her icy-cold veneer serves her well in such escapades, but serves her poorly in life, as she manages to alienate all those closest to her. This novel will never be a best-seller - after all, it's 1963 novel from Hungary, only recently translated and published by the NYRP press - famed for preserving literary obscurities; but Szabo deserves this posthumous recognition (her novel The Door was well-reviewed in 2015).

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