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Kriszta BÓDIS
( 1967 )

» Hard as Butter (2003)
» Artiste (2006)


1967 born in Budapest
1985-93 studies Psychology and Aesthetics at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest;
documentary filmmaker and writer

2004 The Dialëktus Festival's Prize for her film Romani Krisz

Hard as Butter

Bódis first published poetry before revealing herself to be one of today's most culturally significant novelists. Her first novel is about suffering, about being placed at the mercy of others, about physical and intellectual privation; a novel that enters the world of Hungary's Roma (Gypsy) community and broaches the problem of prostitution, portraying sexuality in its brutal aspect. Bódis's attention to sociological and psychological accuracy and willingness to deal with legal and political issues stands out in particular. The main protagonist and narrator is a Gypsy girl who comes from the shanty slum of an industrial city. She has a noticeable stutter, the legacy of a childhood trauma, but she is a voracious reader and jots her thoughts down in notebooks. For all of her grammatical errors, she gives a subtle and authentic account of her life. To avoid starvation, she moves to the capital, where a relative puts her to work as a street girl. At 14 she bears a child, who is taken from her, then ends up in prison and is released only after a year and a half, although the penalty should not have exceeded thirty days. A foreign priest tries to help her but to no avail, as she returns, pregnant again, to her former pimp; at the end of the novel it is made implicit that she will return to the streets. Bodis probes a specific Hungarian manifestation of the general phenomenon of destitution with inserted passages that might almost have come from a sociographic study analysing the hopelessness of the plight of Hungary's Gypsies and the complex predicament of prostitution, including the responsibility borne by the country's politicians, media, legislation, courts and law-enforcement agencies.


In her second novel, as in her first, the author plunges into the world of social outcasts, figures living on the margins of society, homeless, bereft of hope. The main protagonist is a 13-year-old girl called Pinkler, who bears the nickname “Artiste”. Her short life is composed of a series of escapes: she flees from her homeless, alcoholic father, her feckless mother, the children’s home and a group of horse-trading Gypsies before she is killed when she touches a high-tension wire. One year later, a young sociologist by the name of Judit starts to investigate the case; she conducts interviews with the people who had anything to do with the girl, such as Janó, with whom she had fallen in love. The novel’s format is much like that of a fictive documentary film, with two types of chapter alternating: one a monologue, with the individual figures disclosing much about themselves, both with regard to their nature and linguistically, the next story-like, in which we follow events from the viewpoint of an outside narrator. What emerges is a mosaic, yet taut. The book’s outline of the world of its frail and defenceless characters gives the reader an insight into the underworld of current Hungarian society, not just with the aim of sociological documentation but with the wider perspective of any fiction, including sensitivity to the tragic. “After her notable first novel, she has now followed that up in a way that equates trust placed in the author with objective appraisal of her accomplishment." -László Márton, Élet és Irodalom “At last a writer who does not write about herself or himself.” -Orsolya Péntek, Magyar Nemzet

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