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Iza's Ballad


An NYRB Classics Original

From the author of The Door, selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2015

Like Magda Szabó’s internationally acclaimed novel The DoorIza’s Ballad is a striking story of the relationship between two women, in this case a mother and a daughter. Ettie, the mother, is old and from an older world than the rapidly modernizing Communist Hungary of the years after World War II.

From a poor family and without formal education, Ettie has devoted her life to the cause of her husband, Vince, a courageous magistrate who had been blacklisted for political reasons before the war. Iza, their daughter, is as brave and conscientious as her father: Active in the resistance against the Nazis, she is now a doctor and a force for progress. Iza lives and works in Budapest, and when Vince dies, she is quick to bring Ettie to the city to make sure her mother is close and can be cared for. She means to do everything right, and Ettie is eager to do everything to the satisfaction of the daughter she is so proud of. But good intentions aside, mother and daughter come from two different worlds and have different ideas of what it means to lead a good life. Though they struggle to accommodate each other, increasingly they misunderstand and hurt each other, and the distance between them widens into an abyss. . . .


Some books, like some people, require great patience and attention to fully understand their complexity and beauty. Szabo teaches us lucky readers this very lesson through “Iza’s Ballad,” one that perfect but songless Iza could never learn.
—Lauren Groff, The New York Times

“The Door” has a vitality undimmed by time or translation. Its emotional ferocity, moral urgency and tincture of black magic made it feel new and urgent. “Iza’s Ballad” is no less relevant, a trenchant, unadulterated drama of old age and the loss of meaning…George Szirtes’s translation captures the story’s emotional turmoil at no cost to its clarity or directness. Even after years of obscurity, this novel has the breath and pulse of a living thing.
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

Ghosts, angels, and demons hover in this quiet meditation on grief, love, and history.

This rich novel is a startling reminder that it is possible to speak regularly, and with good intentions, to family members without ever coming an inch closer to understanding one another.
—Priyanka Kumar, Santa Fe New Mexican

[A] compelling, affecting and a fascinating parable of mid-20th century progress… a study of the spaces between people, and what those represent.
—Pasha Malla, The Globe and Mail

[A] heartbreakingly beautiful novel...Szirtes conveys both the sophistication and simplicity of Szabó’s narrative in a superb translation...Humble, wistful Ettie is a wonderful creation...Just as The Door won an immediate English-language following, Iza’s Ballad is bound to become one of the most loved books of the year...This publication of Iza’s Ballad, subtle and profound, is a cause for celebration.
The Irish Times

Magda Szabo’s work casts an indirect light upon the dimness that exists between our public and private selves, a place wherein our betrayals—both personal and political—flicker uneasily over the walls...Iza’s Ballad should solidify Szabo’s standing as a master novelist amongst her English-language readers.
—Dustin Illingworth, LitHub

A ruthless exploration of the damage we inflict on one another in the name of love.
The Independent



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