Autobiographies of an Angel


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A Novel

Gabor Schein; Translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet

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An unflinching narrative of family history in Hungary’s Jewish community and the nation’s deep complicity in the Holocaust
“Gábor Schein is that rarest of elegists, endowed equally with a respect for history and an ecstasy of imagination.”—Joshua Cohen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Netanyahus
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.

“Schein establishes his tone: mordant, candid, disillusioned but undeterred . . . [A] defiantly unrelenting novel.”—Ron Slate, On the Seawall

“Gábor Schein is that rarest of elegists, endowed equally with a respect for history and an ecstasy of imagination.”—Joshua Cohen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Netanyahus

"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

“Schein writes in a language that is free in time: accurate, crystal-clear, simple. He suggests that either everything is related to everything else, or that nothing is related to anything else, and that while contemplating the choice, before deciding, he will relate everything that he can. His brilliance is that while we follow him with great excitement and deep mourning in our hearts, he makes us understand that everything always happens again and always in the same way.”—László Krasznahorkai

“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
ISBN: 9780300247411
Publication Date: July 5, 2022
224 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
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