Author(s): Magda Szabo
From the author of The Door, selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2015 An NYRB Classics Original Like Magda Szabo s internationally acclaimed novel The Door, Iza s Ballad is a striking story of the relationship between two women, in this case a mother and a daughter. Ettie, the mother, is old and from an older world than the rapidly modernizing Communist Hungary of the years after World War II. From a poor family and without formal education, Ettie has devoted her life to the cause of her husband, Vince, a courageous magistrate who had been blacklisted for political reasons before the war. Iza, their daughter, is as brave and conscientious as her father: Active in the resistance against the Nazis, she is now a doctor and a force for progress. Iza lives and works in Budapest, and when Vince dies, she is quick to bring Ettie to the city to make sure her mother is close and can be cared for. She means to do everything right, and Ettie is eager to do everything to the satisfaction of the daughter she is so proud of. But good intentions aside, mother and daughter come from two different worlds and have different ideas of what it means to lead a good life. Though they struggle to accommodate each other, increasingly they misunderstand and hurt each other, and the distance between them widens into an abyss. . . ."
Magda Szabo (1917 2007) was born into an old Protestant family in Debrecen, Hungary s Calvinist Rome, in the midst of the great Hungarian plain. Szabo, whose father taught her to converse with him in Latin, German, English, and French, attended the University of Debrecen, studying Latin and Hungarian, and went on to work as a teacher throughout the German and Soviet occupations of Hungary in 1944 and 1945. In 1947, she published two volumes of poetry, Barany (The Lamb), and Vissza az emberig (Return to Man), for which she received the Baumgartner Prize in 1949. Under Communist rule, this early critical success became a liability, and Szabo turned to writing fiction: Her first novel, Fresko (Fresco), came out in 1958, followed closely by Az z (The Fawn). In 1959 she won the Jozsef Attila Prize, after which she went on to write many more novels, among them Katalin utca (Katalin Street, 1969), Okut (The Ancient Well, 1970), Regimodi tortenet (An Old-Fashioned Tale, 1971), and Az ajto (The Door, 1987). In 2015, the first American publication of The Door was named one of ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review. Szabo also wrote verse for children, plays, short stories, and nonfiction, including a tribute to her husband, Tibor Szobotka, a writer and translator who died in 1982. A member of the European Academy of Sciences and a warden of the Calvinist Theological Seminary in Debrecen, Szabo died in the town in which she was born, a book in her hand. George Szirtes is a poet and translator of Hungarian literature. He is the author of the poetry collections The Slant Door (winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize), Bridge Passages, and Reel (winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize). He is a recipient of the 2013 Best Translated Book Award for his translation of Laszlo Krasznahorkai s Satantango and was one of two translators who received prizes when Krasznahorkai won the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. Szirtes s Newand Collected Poems was published in 2008."