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NOVELS
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Esszéregény
Utójáték, regény
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Történet - töredékekben
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Történetek

ESSAYS

A nyelv és a vers születése
A kisgyermek és a valóság
Vázlatok a gyermek világáról
Napi kritikák


FOR CHILDREN
Mesterdetektív-történetek gyerekeknek
Meseregény
Meseregény
Két meseregény
Meseregény
MAYA J. LO BELLO
Contextualizing Géza Szávai ’s novel, Aletta’s Ark

Géza Szávai’s literary works represent an unusually broad cross-section of cultures, themes and genres that unite to pose a series of provocative questions surrounding the struggle to define one’s identity as a minority. Born in 1950 as a member of Romania’s Hungarian-speaking, Szekler minority group, Géza Szávai personally encountered the political oppression experienced by minorities during Nicolae Ceaucescu’s brutal dictatorship. In his first critically- acclaimed book, Walking to Gramophone Music, published in Romania in 1985, the author used a splintered, compressed prose style in order to slip forbidden political opinons past Romanian censors. This technique was not only an effective form of evasion, but later became characteristic of his literary style. After defecting to Hungary in 1988, Géza Szávai did not write another novel until 1998, instead choosing to create essays, children’s books, and works in such non-fiction fields as history and child psychology. Employed at various times as a teacher, literary critic, journalist and publisher, Géza Szávai currently lives in Budapest, Hungary, where he heads an independent publishing house, PONT Publishers. His novels have been translated into Romanian, German and Russian; the English translation of his novel, Rear-Guard, is currently in preparation.

Within the confines of Hungarian literature Géza Szávai’s career as an author undoubtedly presents something of a conundrum to literary critics. This situation is somewhat undeserved, for it is mostly due to the fact that Géza Szávai did not produce more novels for a lengthy period following his emigration from Romania to Hungary. During this time his first four novels - published in Romania at a time when direct communication between the two countries was almost impossible - were virtually set aside by the literary world. Another difficulty presents itself in the fact that Géza Szávai is not an author easily placed within any kind of convenient literary category, for his works gleefully display a deliberate disregard for the usual boundaries set by traditional genres. A good example of this can be found in Géza Szávai’s most important literary work since 1988, Szekler Jerusalem (2001).

A detailed exploration into the lives and fates of the Hungarian Sabbatarians, a group of Szekler Hungarians who converted to Judaism at the end of the 16th century, Szekler Jerusalem examines the nature of religious tolerance as seen in several different historical periods. Bözödújfalu, the Hungarian Sabbatarians’ community, existed for centuries next to Géza Szávai’s birthplace, Küsmöd, until history - in the form of the Holocaust and Communism - brutally erased all traces of their village. A combination of novel, documentary, family history, autobiography, photo journalism and essay, Szekler Jerusalem was followed in 2006 by Aletta’s Ark, a work that places the author’s recurring themes of religious persecution, minority oppression and questions of personal/cultural identity into the startling context of a Dutch Protestant girl’s experiences in 17th century Japan. As opposed to documenting the story of an entire community, in this novel Géza Szávai narrows his literary vision to the main character’s (Aletta Huebler’s) personal struggle to find her place in a harsh, alien world while making the transition from girl to woman. (...)

in: METAMORPHOSES, vol.18., Amherts/Northampton/Massachusetts

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