Ágota Kristóf (Author) Nina Bogin (Translator)
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DescriptionNarrated in a series of stark, brief vignettes, The Illiterate is Ágota Kristóf's memoir of her childhood, her escape from Hungary in 1956 with her husband and small child, her early years working in factories in Switzerland, and the writing of her first novel, The Notebook. Few writers can convey so much in so little space. Fierce yet almost pointedly flat and documentarian in tone, Kristóf portrays with a disturbing level of detail and directness an implacable message of loss: first, she is forced to learn Russian as a child (with the Soviet takeover of Hungary, Russian became obligatory at school); next, at age twenty-one, she finds herself required to learn French to survive: I have spoken French for more than thirty years, I have written in French for twenty years, but I still don't know it. I don't speak it without mistakes, and I can only write it with the help of dictionaries, which I frequently consult. It is for this reason that I also call the French language an enemy language. There is a further reason, the most serious of all: this language is killing my mother tongue.
New Directions Publishing Corporation
April 04, 2023
0.0 X 0.0 X 0.0 inches | 0.14 pounds
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About the Author
Ágota Kristóf was born in Csikvánd, Hungary, in 1935. Aged twenty-one, Kristóf and her husband and four-month-old daughter fled the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Uprising to Austria and were resettled in French-speaking Switzerland. Working in a factory, Kristóf slowly learned the language of her adopted country. Her first novel, The Notebook (1986), won the European Prize for French literature and was translated into forty languages. Kristóf's other work included plays and stories as well as The Proof (1988) and The Third Lie (1991), which complete the trilogy begun with The Notebook. She died in 2011.
Nina Bogin was born in New York City and grew up on the north shore of Long Island. She attended Kirkland College (now Hamilton College) and received a B.A. from New York University. She has lived in France since 1976, has published three books of poetry, and she has received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant.