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  • MacLehose Press
  • MacLehose Press

The Photographer at Sixteen

George Szirtes

4 Reviews

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Memoirs

A poet's memoir of his mother that flows backwards through time, and excavates a shard of European history - a deeply honest, tender and yet unsentimental autobiographical journey.

A poet's memoir of his mother that flows backwards through time, and through a tumultuous period of European history - a tender and yet unsparing autobiographical journey.

In July 1975, Magda Szirtes died in the ambulance on the way to hospital after she had tried to take her own life. She was fifty-one years old. The Photographer at Sixteen spools into the past, through her exile in England, her flight with her husband and two young boys from Hungary in 1956 and her time in two concentration camps, her girlhood as an ambitious photographer, and the unknowable fate of her vanished family in Transylvania.

The woman who emerges - with all her contradictions - is utterly captivating. What were the terrors and obsessions that drove her? THE PHOTOGRAPHER AT SIXTEEN reveals a life from the depths of its final days to the comparable safety of its childhood. It is a book born of curiosity, of guilt and of love.

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Praise for The Photographer at Sixteen

  • In this quest to understand the enigma of his mother 's life and death, George Szirtes travels back from personal memory to deeper history, as he reconstructs his family's tragedy-darkened past . . . An original, probingly thoughtful memoir whose restraint only increases its poignancy and impact

  • In this extraordinary, hybrid book - part memoir, part history, part poetic journey - Szirtes re-makes the life of his mother, tracing her childhood in Europe's darkest period to her life in Britain after the Hungarian uprising. He brilliantly captures how sometimes it's those closest to us who remain the most mysterious.

  • A truly remarkable book about identity, image and memory. It is fiercely compelling.

  • Magda Szirtes is intense, untameable, tantalising and compelling. George Szirtes is tender and astute in trying to understand her, percipient in analysing the enduring fragments of her life -- letters, tape-recordings, photographs, memories -- yet ever-aware of how little it is possible to know. The result is engrossing and profoundly moving.

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George Szirtes

GEORGE SZIRTES' many books of poetry have won prizes including the T. S. Eliot Prize (2004), for which he was again shortlisted for Bad Machine (2013). His translation of Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai (whom he interviewed for The White Review) was awarded the Best Translated Book Award in the US. He is also the translator of Sandor Marai and Magda Szabo. The Photographer at Sixteen is his first venture into prose writing of his own.

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