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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Anna Édes

Kosztolányi Dezső

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To purchase Anna Édes

Title: Anna Édes
Author: Kosztolányi Dezső
Genre: Novel
Written: 1926 (Eng. 1991)
Length: 225 pages
Original in: Hungarian
Availability: Anna Édes - US
Anna Édes - UK
Anna Édes - Canada
Anna la douce - France
Anna - Deutschland
  • Hungarian title Édes Anna
  • Translated by George Szirtes
  • Previously translated into English as Wonder Maid by Adam de Hegedus (1947)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : effective portraits, but several stories, not one

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 25/3/2000 Karl-Markus Gauss
TLS . 13/12/1991 P. Sherwood


Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Anna Édes begins with a short, surreal chapter on 'The Flight of Béla Kun', imagining the revolutionary leader piloting an aircraft, his pockets stuffed with pastries and jewels, waving and grinning to the crowds below. The novel is set immediately after that, beginning in 1919, with a return to life somewhat as usual at 238 Attila utca, where government bureaucrat Kornél Vizy and his wife Angéla live.
       The Vizys were certainly not ready for nor did they much appreciate the idea of a classless society. But things now return to some sort of normal (by their standards), and as the transition comes, Mrs. Vizy's major concern isn't the occupying Romanian army but her maid, Katica, who is proving to be entirely too undependable. Mrs. Vizy appears to have a congenital servant problem -- she's never been able to hold onto a maid for more than six months -- but now she lucks into something better: Anna Édes.
       Anna is something special. A teenager from the countryside (but with a bit of city experience), she offers the proper mix of innocence and obedience. She doesn't steal, for one, and is able to do most of what's required of her. And she knows her place, doing what Mrs.Vizy demands.
       The book moves to two highpoints. The first is when the Vizys' nephew Jancsi seduces Anna when the Vizys are away for a few days, a brief slumming it fling for him (with all the expected consequences). The second is the double-murder of the Vizys and the ensuing trial.
       Kosztolányi is very strong in the smaller scenes he sets. The short affair between Jancsi and Anna is particularly well handled (down to the chicken in Anna's bed when Jancsi joins her there), and the characters of Mrs.Vizy and Jancsi are very sharply presented. Vulnerable Anna, passive and dutiful, for the most part reacting (and doing as she is told) rather than acting isn't always entirely as satisfactory. Kosztolányi doesn't seem quite sure of what he wants her story to be. She is central, and yet the focus often doesn't seem to be on her -- so, for example, the reader learns more about how Jancsi gets over Anna than her getting over him.
       Anna Édes also offers an appealing, detail-rich picture of that particular time and place, Kosztolányi manages to convey a great deal in what seem to be even simple observations:

Not that she understood anything of electricity, but then neither did they. When she turned on the light she saw the room brighten but still checked to see the bulb was burning. It was the same with the telephone. For the first few days she talked in sepulchral tones into the wrong end until she discovered her mistake. Thereafter she relaxed into an easy acquaintance with it. She had seen greater marvels out on the plains. She simply accepted the fact that such things existed.
       Somewhat frustratingly, Anna is never really allowed to come into her own, always overwhelmed by stronger forces, be they Mrs.Vizy or, ultimately, the court (where words are practically put in her mouth). She is a sympathetic character, but unlike so many of the others remains an enigma. Kosztolányi is clearly on the side of the country girl, but while he gets to the very root of a character like Jancsi he seems scared off by Anna's open innocence, unwilling or unable to explore (or fathom ?) it.
       In Anna Édes Kosztolányi seems to be starting a new book several times, unsure quite what he wants to do with her. What he offers is good -- often very good -- but also frustrating.

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Reviews: Kosztolányi Dezső: Other books by Kosztolányi Dezső under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Kosztolányi Dezső (1885-1936) was a leading Hungarian author.

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© 2006-2011 the complete review

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