This is a book of love and death: Anna T. Szabó’s third collection of short stories is concerned with the body and the soul, with yearning and infatuation, with joy and the lack of it, with the glorious yet terrifying forces that inhabit human beings, with how we yield to – or rein in – our desires. The forty stories almost all concern the lives and fates of women, from teenagers to the elderly.
The short stories’ protagonists inhabit widely differing milieus, social classes and periods, yet their problems are similar: passion appears to be draining away from their lives, their frustrated desires threaten now to explode, now to end in apathy or depressed resignation. What Anna T. Szabó is most interested in is the instinctual in the depths of our well-ordered lives: whether passion can be civilised, and whether it is possible – and worthwhile – to love in any way other than in an all-or-nothing fashion. In the volume the reverberations of fierce and otherworldly passions meld with the sounds of attempts at a rapprochement with sober, everyday life, with the alternation and altercation between the past and the present, between the actual and the impossible.
Several of the stories connect with specific works of music, whether rock, pop, or classical, and the very modulation of the stories, the way they, too, swell and die away, affect us as if we were listening to music. As well as music, another important leitmotif of the volume is the mystical: tales of witches.
Exercises in Escapology unearths mysteries about identity and relationships which – though we may not yet have formulated them explicitly – will be familiar to every reader.
Where lies the boundary between love and clinginess? At what point can one say that a relationship has turned abusive? What does it mean to be fulfilled? Can one ever regain the passion of one’s youth? Is it possible to come to terms with growing old? (Kinga Forgách, Könyves Magazin)
ISBN 978 963 1440 18 8
2020, hard cover with jacket