Reading Anita Harag’s stories is a bit like watching an episode from a series that has been going on for many months. Nothing special happens to her characters: they wake up, go to work, visit their relatives. But if we take a closer look, these simple gestures and chores reveal complex relationships and are suffused with pain, desire and loss. The stories are always open-ended: we get a glimpse into the life of the characters, then leave them where we found them. The narrators of her stories – young women in present-day Hungary – are full of anxiety nurtured by the traumas and memories of their parents and grandparents, as well as their own fear of the future. They may be lonely but they are never alone: they are always shown in their relationships with their family members, lovers, friends or colleagues – in fact, it is their loneliness that connects them to one another.
Harag’s characters often seem like strangers in their own stories. A Ukrainian girl feels excluded in the office because she doesn’t speak Hungarian and spends her time trying to guess what people around her are talking about. Alone with her thoughts, even though her husband is with her, a daughter cleans up her alcoholic father’s house after his death, and tries to come to terms with his legacy. A ‘good’ girl meets a ‘bad’ boy, and as time passes, the girl starts to see herself thorugh her boyfriend’s eyes, her inner monologue becoming tainted with the way he sees her. Many of the stories are about loss, or the fear of loss: the illness or death of parents or grandparents, the fear of loving a person or an animal and then losing them, or the fear of being diagnosed with cancer.
As Lajos Parti Nagy said about Anita Harag, she is capable of balancing between what is significant and what is insignificant, revealing the momentous in the banal and the tragic in the petty.
“My mother spends less and less time in the kitchen […] Neither my brother nor I help her out, we’ve got used to Mother not needing any help. She can manage on her own, she’s been managing on her own for the last four years. We sit and watch her managing.”
ISBN 978 963 14 3948 9
136 pages, 2999 HUF
English excerpt available