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Zsuzsa VATHY
( 1940 )

» Adventure Novel (1999 )
» Scateboards and Spaceboards (2000 )
» Angel's Bridge (2003 )
» Columbo's Car (2011)


1940 born in Pápa, in western Hungary
1959-64 studies Chemistry at the University of Veszprém
1964-70 works as an engineer in Százhalombatta
1970 first collection of short stories appears
1971 becomes a journalist
1990-92 editor at the literary magazine Kortárs
1992-present full-time writer, member of the Hungarian Arts Academy

Zsuzsa Vathy is a writer, journalist and editor. She was born into an urban intellectual family in 1940. She earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Veszprém. Until the late 1960s
she worked at an oil refinery. In 1970 she began editing a children’s column, and soon after began publishing short stories, novelettes, reports and novellas. In the early 1990s she was prose columnist
for a literary journal, then became a freelance writer.
A typical feature of her writing is reliance on biographical sources, the theme of conflict between generations, trying to find one’s way as a child or adolescent, and the highlighting of social problems.
Her stories are typically sociographical and her prose style is distinguished by meticulous attention to the environment in which her characters interact. Vathy, whose husband was the popular
Hungarian writer Ervin Lázár, is the recipient of numerous literary awards.

Her prizes include:
Attila József Prize (1986); Prize of the Móra Publishing House (1986);
Book of the Year Prize (1986); Lajos Nagy Prize (1995); Tibor Szobotka Prize (1996) Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic, Knight Cross (2000)

Adventure Novel

Kalandregény is in fact a parody of the genre of the picaresque novel: the hero, the fifty-year-old Akáciusz Kis-Várday, an esteemed lawyer, sets out to discover the city he lived in for decades - but alone, while his wife is away on convalescence. The setting is Budapest, the time the Nineties, a period when many changes took place in the capital, suddenly freed as it was from socialist restrictions. The lawyer wanders through his own city, taking a different route each day, temporarily escaping from his own life. The trifling little events of everyday existence take on surprising dimensions and prove to be real adventures for Akáciusz. The book covers eleven days and chronicles Akáciusz's meetings, relationships and conflicts. The setting is characteristically urban consumerland. To begin with, Akáciusz has pizza at a different place every day. He gives a ride to a hitchhiker girl and they make love, and he also makes love to a former girlfriend, and to his long-term mistress, a woman with Wagnerian appetites. He goes swimming, attends a concert, and stops by a shopping-mall, as well as a graveyard. Here he joins the funeral procession of a stranger and engages in lively conversation. The loose and episodic narrative forms a substantial panoramic sequence, and the narrator treats the whole city with love and bitter irony at the same time. "Zsuzsa Vathy portrays the hero of our age with delicate irony and a sentimentality that is always in control. We laugh at him and pity him at the same time, but we share the author's fondness for Akáciusz." -Ildikó Orosz

Scateboards and Spaceboards

This slim but all the more powerful volume is divided into three lengthy sections, each of which bears the same title: "Time". The stories are about old men and neglected youngsters, homeless people and strange angels. Zsuzsa Vathy has the eye of a reporter, the hand of a writer and the understanding heart of a mother. She has a strong belief in the power of stories and finds a story for each fleeting moment: a quiet childhood afternoon soon turns out to be the most decisive day of a young girl's life, a mother is suddenly addressed by God while heating milk for her baby, and a strange homeless woman is suddenly convinced that her brother will come and take her away by plane from the depths of the underground where she has taken shelter. According to Vathy: "A story means a relation. Something is related to another, something has a predecessor, an antecedent, an afterlife." "In my opinion Zsuzsa Vathy's writings mediate between humans and angels. Zsuzsa Vathy never lies, never beats around the bush. When she speaks, her sentences always have a stake." -Pál Dippold

Angel's Bridge

The novel is set in Hungary, 1952, in the hardest years of Communism or rather in many ages and settings, because the main character, Reni Siksztin, the daughter of an particularly interesting intellectual family, is blessed with a colourful imagination. She also has a guardian angel who enables her to live many different lives; first she lives in Reneissance Milan with the envoy of King Matthias, then she lives the short but interesting life of a nineteenth century actress, then she becomes the wife of a alcoholic teacher and bears six children at the beginning of the twentieth century, and in the end she lives the life of a young woman artist who almost loses her soul but in decisive moments, the heavenly powers always intervene. The novel s main appeal is its broad historical panorama and the vividly realistic descriptions of family lives, female roles and psychologically valid portrayals of its characters.

Columbo's Car

The collection of short stories entitled Columbo autója (Columbo’s Car) can also be read as a short novel. Th e idea for the book came from a serialized report written by the author for a Hungarian weekly on one of Budapest’s poorer areas situated at the juncture of Illatos and Gubacsi roads known as the “Dzsumbuj”, which is inhabited mostly by Roma families. Due to the topic’s sensitivity, Vathy chose the short story format. Where there were subjects that she could not or was afraid to ask about, she added fictitious parts. The short stories are centered around a hard-working Roma family’s weekdays as seen through the eyes of the young protagonist, Roland. The volume contains all of what is typical of Vathy’s writing: generational conf ict, the search for an adult identity by adolescents, and the difficulties inherent in changing lifestyles. The blight of the dzsumbuj formatively appears in the Roland stories; the sociographical writing and description of emotions are organically bound together, creating a sad world that is yet not without hope for the young. The story that gives the volume its title is about Roland failing at a quiz show when in the third round he is asked what kind of car Columbo drove. He does not know the answer, and so his parents cannot go to a restaurant or cinema after ten years, nor cat they buy “as much ham and sausage as they possibly can eat.” The resulting disappointment makes Roland feel that “it’s time to leave this place.” He is told by his uncle that in Germany hourly wages are €10, entertainment is easily come by, and a used Opels are within everyone’s means. Roland is caught between his wish to move to Germany and his distress at the thought of leaving his family in pursuit of a better life. Some of the subject thus discussed in short story form are what it feel like being uprooted (“What is Homesickness?”), and how can one travel to a foreign country (“It Was Just One of Th ose Springs”). Owing to Roland’s lack of worldly experience, he does not know the answers. All he knows is that he wants a better life, which is why he gets his driver’s license, and why he studies for his graduation exams. Columbo autója juxtaposes the dzsumbuj’s everyday problems and Roland’s dreams – unemployment, the difficulties with integration, societal tensions owing to cultural differences, and racism. For this reason, Roland’s optimistic view of the future is very much a fairytale, and he remains a naïve and well-intentioned young man, who in the end does leave his home for a better life, at which point he disappears from the reader’s view.

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