By Magda Szabó
Translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix
"Szabó has created a character of defiant complexity and perverse, utterly plausible self-destructiveness. . . . Szabó’s psychological acuity, amply on display in her later novels, is thoroughly present here too."—Claire Messud, Harper’s Magazine
"Len Rix, the translator of three other novels by Szabó (1917–2007), renders Eszter’s blunt, merciless narration in smoothly cold prose."—Nick Holdstock, TLS
"This is a story of how a monster is made and of how successive disorienting, alienating crises in twentieth-century Hungarian history—and most of all the distorting crisis of poverty, the crisis of class inequality and class resentment—has made its monsters."—Meghan Racklin, Asymptote
From the author of The Door and Abigail and for fans of Elena Ferrante and Clarice Lispector, a newly translated novel about a theater star who is forced to reckon with her painful and tragic past.
In The Door, in Iza's Ballad, and in Abigail, Magda Szabó describes the complex relationships between women of different ages and backgrounds with an astute and unsparing eye. Eszter, the narrator and protagonist of The Fawn, may well be Szabó’s most fascinating creation.
Eszter, an only child, her father an eccentric aristocrat and steeply downwardly mobile flower breeder, her mother a harried music teacher failing to make ends meet, grows up poor and painfully aware of it in a provincial Hungarian town.
This is before World War II, and Eszter, as she tells her story of childhood loneliness and hunger, has forgotten no slight and forgiven nobody, least of all her beautiful classmate Angela, whose unforced kindness to her left the deepest wound.
And yet Eszter, post-war—which is when she has come to remember all these things—is a star of the stage, now settled in Budapest, where Angela, a devout Communist married to an esteemed scholar and translator of Shakespeare, also lives.
The Fawn unfolds as Eszter's confession, filled with the rage of a lifetime and born, we come to sense, of irreversible regret. It is a tale of childhood, of the theater, of the collateral damage of the riven twentieth century, of hatred, and, in the end, a tragic tale of love.
NYRB Classics, 2023
Originally published in 1959
5 x 8 inches