Leli browses among family photos and sets about describing them. The result is a family novel, or rather, fragments of a family novel, composed of chunks of memory. As the family photos are detailed, the past, narrated in the present tense, comes alive, populated with grandmothers who worked as servants; parents who lived in concrete blocks of flats in Miskolc, in the north of Hungary; and the narrator’s brother, who was born with spina bifida and spent much of his childhood in hospitals. Parallel to these stories of the past, Leli’s present is narrated in the past tense. We learn how Leli, who is forty-two and has diabetes, struggles with trying to conceive a child.
The Life of Leli is a novel about learning to communicate with our family members and how that is ultimately impossible. It is about loving and crying, illness and health, yearning and acceptance, and the pains and routines of love, told with tenderness and empathy.
Every slice of buttered toast one drops is merely the continuation of something; every edge’s edginess is the centre of some greater whole. Things don’t end just when someone declares they are over. You don’t begin where your mother ends. Death gyrates like a humming top round everyone’s life, knocking things over as it spins.
ISBN 978 963 14 4003 4
264 pages, 3499 HUF
English excerpt available