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A vadlott, 1950- 1952.(Review) (book review)

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  • golden3000997@cs.com
    A woman who hid Jews and wore the yellow star in solidarity writes an erudite philosophical treatise, a dissemination of Ignacz s affinity for the esoteric,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2004
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      A woman who hid Jews and "wore the yellow star in solidarity" writes"an
      erudite philosophical treatise, a dissemination of Ignacz's affinity for the
      esoteric, gnostic doctrines of anthroposophy" within the context of a powerful novel
      about people trying to escape from the totalitarian regime of Hungary of the
      1950s. Interesting.

      (end of Christine's editorializing)


      A vadlott, 1950- 1952.(Review) (book review)

      World Literature Today; 1/1/2000

      Ignacz Rozsa. A vadlott, 1950- 1952. Budapest. Tertia Kiado. 1999. 372 pages.
      1,300 Ft. isbn 963-85866-6-4.

      The author, a fascinating grande dame of fiction (and a noted actress to
      boot), would now be ninety years old, but alas, she died in 1979 after writing her
      fortieth book, the landmark opus A vadlott, 1950- 1952, a unique, complex
      swan song of a novel. Rozsa Ignacz was a born rebel who had declared a personal
      war on both Nazism (she hid many Jews and wore the yellow star out of
      solidarity) and communism, refusing to pay tribute to either regime. Living in
      perpetual dread during the sadism-infused Stalin-Rakosi era, she nevertheless kept a
      secret diary (the book's nidus), registering how those unspeakable horrors

      A vadlott (The Accused) is a profound, compelling testimony, a fierce
      fictional indictment of communism in Hungary that eclipses almost all others in
      recorded history. It chronicles the notorious 1950s, when the regime governs by
      fear, violence, and bribery. The party edicts mandate persecution, coercion,
      constant surveillance, mass arrests, imprisonment, torture, physical and mental
      terror; in such a police state "the entire population lived behind bars." Ignacz
      eloquently exposes how this evil totalitarian power imposes disasters not
      only on those it governs but on all humanity. However, the volume is neither a
      mere samizdat piece nor "a political parable written for the drawer," but
      instead a haunting tale pulsing with inspiration and courage that can be read and
      deconstructed on several levels.

      First and foremost, "The Accused" is a tension-filled adventure story, a saga
      of a most perilous escape across the mined and guarded border, viewed through
      the prism of seven people (herded together in a punitive construction
      brigade), each haunted and persecuted and by now undeterred by the venture's dangers.
      These characters serve as prototypes symbolizing contemporary society: a
      cynical "organizer, the cunning intellectual antihero," an idealistic philosopher,
      an ex- countess, a skilled Social Democrat worker, two agrarian laborers, and
      a wealthy peasant (a "kulak"). Through their tragic vicissitudes the reader
      can witness the gradual realization of Marx's dictum, "The state commits
      self-mutilation if it makes criminals out of its citizens." Thus, it is a deeply
      political and historical novel too.

      Furthermore, we can interpret the rich compendium of "forbidden words" as an
      erudite philosophical treatise, a dissemination of Ignacz's affinity for the
      esoteric, gnostic doctrines of anthroposophy. The flow of events is often
      interrupted by expansive monologues from both the philosopher and the group leader.
      During their acid observations, their first-person delivery sometimes
      switches to the third person, a seeming detachment conjuring up an even more personal
      outpouring of ideas. Verily, these composite characters reveal identifiable
      traits of the author, making the text recognizably autobiographical.

      In addition, this powerful yet totally feminine woman author (remember, she
      was an actress!) boldly assaulted the then-prevalent demeaning mass conception
      of women's position, expounding, with hauteur and self- confidence, a rather
      rough but original view of early feminist theories. Openly repudiating the
      masculine, sexless "socialist megawoman," she again testifies to people's inherent
      love of freedom, advocating that "mankind's liberation ultimately equals
      woman's liberation too." As the repression solidifies, we can observe the whole
      nation sliding into doublespeak, as words become divorced from reality,
      responsibility, and real thoughts. In this morass of suspicion and betrayal, the
      portrayal of this frightened society yields a reliable, albeit sinister
      sociological document as well. Lastly, the novel renders a moving, dolorous, beautifully
      written passionate romance between the philosopher and the former countess.
      The images of this woebegone love story are engraved into the deepest recesses
      of our psyche.

      In the final analysis, "The Accused" may also be regarded as a guide to
      budding writers, for it expansively disseminates numerous useful rules, tips, and
      secrets of the writing craft. Granted, some hyperbolic summations of individual
      elements occasionally lose their vividness and dilute the effect, and the
      overabundance of paradigms and the heaping of unendurable suffering occasionally
      reduce the impact. Nonetheless, even with the inserted lengthy discourses
      (which, forty-five years later, the author's daughter-in-law Agnes Arany, has
      dexterously cut and edited), the plot is fast-moving and spellbinding and is
      delivered in an engaging, brilliant, stylish prose.

      The striking skepticism of the author's mind, the moral distance she sets
      between herself and the hysteria of her day, her smooth juxtaposition of the
      social-scientific and the metaphysical, the secular and the sacred, her courageous
      disregard for the possible consequence of her defiance, and the impressive
      moral stance conferred upon her characters also evoke our awe and admiration.
      With this book, the ruthlessly honest, courageous, and thoroughly humane Rozsa
      Ignacz enters the canon of modern Hungarian literature.

      Clara Gyorgyey

      Yale University

      COPYRIGHT 2000 University ofOklahoma
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