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Zsuzsa Bank

The Swimmer


In this poignant story of loss and longing, first-time novelist Bánk sensitively portrays the barren world of 1950s Hungary through a child's eyes. Kata and her brother, Isti, are young children when their mother leaves their village one day without a word and eventually makes her way to the West. Katalin Velencei's abrupt departure unhinges her stern, bitterly depressed husband, Kálmán, and he embarks on a vagabond existence, dragging the children from one family member to another, never staying long enough to provide stability for the desolate siblings. Isti is the true victim; always a dreamy boy, he begins hearing voices in inanimate objects and finds his only comfort in swimming obsessively in lakes and rivers. Kata relates the story of their wanderings in a matter-of-fact, unemotional tone, trying to understand the grownups who determine her fate and well-being. "Among our people, nobody married for love," she says, and "My mother never contradicted my father. She deserted him." Bánk adroitly refers to the political events in mid-1950s Hungary as dimly perceived background to Kata's narrative. It's as though the violent events in the far-off world are echoed in the small tragedy of their lives. The novel's delicate treatment of Kata's stoicism and powerlessness makes the denouement of this resonant narrative especially heartbreaking.

Format: Hardcover
Published: in USA in 2005
Publisher: Harcourt
Pages: 288
Language: English
ISBN 13: 9780151009329
ISBN 10: 0151009325

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The Swimmer