Autobiographies of an Angel
by Gabor Schein
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Pub Date 05 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 02 Aug 2022
An unflinching narrative of family history in Hungary’s Jewish community and the nation’s deep complicity in the Holocaust
Born in 1723 in a small German town, Johann Klarfeld is thirteen when his father dies. He is taken in by a kind Italian painter to live with him and his daughter in The Hague. But the daughter, beautiful and blind, has a secret.
Two centuries later, Berta Jósza is born during World War II in a village in northern Hungary. The daughter of a police officer, Berta watches chaos unfold through her father’s eyes, from the plundering of the possessions of murdered Jews to the carnage of the 1956 Revolution. When she happens upon an enigmatic autobiography in a secondhand bookshop, she can’t shake the sense that she somehow knows the author.
Lyrical and haunting, this is an unforgettable story about the spirit of history and the individual fates that make up the whole—the entwinements of the past and their unshakable hold on the present.
Gábor Schein is a highly acclaimed author of poetry and fiction; he has translated contemporary and classical German and English poets.
Ottilie Mulzet has translated the work of László Krasznahorkai, Szilárd Borbély, and László Földényi, among others.
"Narrated by the Angel of Ruin, Gábor Schein’s mesmerizing novel weaves the stories of Johann Klarfeld, an eighteenth-century soldier, surgeon, and crypto-Jew; and Berta, child of Hungary’s blood-soaked twentieth century yanked between Soviets and Nazis. ‘Fate is a mesh,’ Berta tells us. She’s describing Schein’s own intricate mesh of digressions that holds heartbreak and cruelty in a single otherworldly and majestic design. A mighty act of imagination, beautifully translated.”—Rosanna Warren
“Wonder and horror, history and mystery, the eternal and the mortal—this haunting novel contains them all as it holds the reader in its spell. That a work so abundant with shape-shifting doubles comes to us in the mesmerizing translation of Ottilie Mulzet seems an eerie, even angelic, sort of poetic justice.”—Adina Hoffman
“Take two people two hundred years apart and watch as they, and all the figures time interposes, vividly grow into a single tragic, picaresque, funny, epic, glittering tapestry memorably woven into history. Now read on.”—George Szirtes