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

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Further thoughts about Iza's Ballad, Soviet censorhip, aand allegory

To my surprise there was pretty much consensus yesterday at book group on my suggestion that perhaps Magda Szabo's 1963 novel, Iza's Ballad (Pilate, in the original) may be an allegory or some kind of extended metaphor for the Soviet control over the state of Hungary: like the Soviet state in relation to the satellites, Iza takes complete control over her widowed mother's life under the guise of being her benevolent benefactor and protector. In fact, over the course of the novel we see that Iza has no affections or emotions, that she's a monstrous automaton who acts as if she's doing good works - and many believe that she is, that Iza is the perfect daughter, but we realize gradually that everything she's doing is to aggrandize her own power over others. As I noted, I don't think authors generally set out to write allegories - I believe Szabo set out to write about a complex set of family relationships - but the additional or the underlying themes develop in the course of composition. PK concurred w/ my views and added the intriguing insight that Iza represents the perfect Soviet heroine: upending a private enterprise and bringing health care to the people, resisting the Nazis, etc. That's true - and it's another reason why the Soviet censors would maybe have liked this novel and missed out on the entire point, on how it's disruptive of Soviet hegemony. RK noted that Iza perhaps has autism or Asperger's Syndrome, in that she cannot feel empathy. RiRi noted some of the oppositions within the novel, most particularly the new ways (life in Budapest) and the old, traditional (life in the small city or the villages); that's true, but it's also important not to romanticize the old, even though Ettie is scared of life in the city and more comfortable "at home" - that life is hard and full of hardships, as we see in particular when Ettie returns home and feels out of place. We had some discussion as well as to whether Anton is at fault in leaving Ettie alone - so that she leaves the house and wanders to her accidental death; I for one felt he was blameless - there was no way he would expect her to leave the house at night and wander the foggy streets (esp in that he did not know she had kept a set of keys). Finally, someone suggested that none of the characters aside from the late Vince was likable; I disagreed with that and believe that the only truly unlikable character was Iza - who pushes away each of the others, w/ the exception of her late father, whose dead sets this novel in motion

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