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( 1952 )

» Zehuze (2007)


Born in Budapest in 1952, András Forgách has worn the diverse caps of dramaturg, playwright, novelist and essayist. Alongside a growing list of stage works and radio plays, he is the translator of a volume of Heinrich von Kleist's essays (Pécs, 1996).

Main prizes:
2000 Ernő Szép prize, 2002 Mari Jászai prize, 2006 Attila József prize, 2007 Tibor Déry Prize, 2007 Milán Füst-Prize, 2009 Béla Balázs-Prize


Zehuze is a Hebrew word that means roughly that’s how it is, c’est la vie, like it or lump it. In this hefty epistolary novel a woman, from middle age onwards, writes regular letters to one of her two daughters. The woman was born in Hungary and during the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, in 1917-18, settled in what was then Palestine. This daughter, who was born in 1922, decided to move the other way, settling in Hungary in 1947. The slowly ageing mother, who in time becomes a grandmother, is not named but is the wife of Henrik Apfelbaum, a literary translator from German (e.g. the works of Thomas Mann) to Hebrew, and keeps the letter-writing going right up to 1976. A very distinctive family saga unfolds from the letters, with the mother, who happens to be a card-carrying Communist of the more intellectual variety, expressing an opinion about virtually every major event or issue that crowds in on her, including, for instance, the rights of Arabs in the various Arab-Israeli conflicts. The daughter—who is also never referred to or addressed by her own name, merely as Jakirati, the Hebrew for darling, dearest—becomes bogged down in Hungary with her husband and, eventually, four children. The very last sentence of the novel is unfinished, an indication of the mother’s death. The spelling and vocabulary of the letters that she has written over the years are now testaments to a vanished world. Mothers like her no longer exist. “András Forgách has created a real Yiddish mama who… has an opinion about everything, from world politics to dustballs, but still worries most of all about her family, her grandchildren, trying from a distance of thousands of miles to keep them all together and protect them; in short, offering advice on just about everything possible in letter form.” Péter Dérczy, Élet és Irodalom

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