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

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

You can't go home again - Part 3 of Szabo's novel Iza's Ballad

In the third section of Magda Szabo's 1963 novel, Iza's Ballad, Iza's mother returns to her village to lay a headstone on her husband's cemetery plot on All Soul's Day. She anticipates the visit w/ great longing - she misses the people and the places of her small town, and she yearns for a re-connection w/ her late husband, for a final healing tribute to his memory - but, as you might suspect, things don't go as planned or hoped for: she's disturbed by the changes in the town over the course of the months she's spent in Budapest - new buildings, and most notably a complete renovation of her house, which she'd sold to her ex-son-in-law, Antal. She is mortified to see the headstone she'd paid for - a very expensive piece of black marble that she now realizes will be ostentatious and far out of scale with everything else in the cemetery, precisely what Vince would not have liked. She's planned to stay w/ a former neighbor, a dressmaker of sorts, but finds herself completely uncomfortable in these Spartan surroundings - no hot water, for example - and is soon "rescued" by Antal, who brings her to his (formerly her) house and provides her with food and linen. It's kind of amazing in this novel how assiduously the younger generation looks out for and takes care of their elders - very sweet, and perhaps a cultural phenomenon in Hungary (seems like something we'd read of in an Asian novel from the 20th or even 19th century). In any event, the mystery behind this novel is why Iza's mother detests the nurse, Lidia, who cared for Vince in his final days and who is now - though she does not yet know this - engaged to Antal; Antal goes off to meet w/ Lidia, leaving Iza's mother - Etta? - alone in the house, and we know only bad things can come of that decision.

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