The Photographer at Sixteen

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George Szirtes

Hardback - Demy - 208pp - £14.99 - 31/01/2019 - 9780857058539

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.

A truly remarkable book about identity, image and memory. It is fiercely compelling
— Edmund de Waal, author of THE HARE WITH THE AMBER EYES
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
— Patrick McGuinness, author of OTHER PEOPLE'S COUNTRIES: A JOURNEY INTO MEMORY
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
— Eva Hoffman, author of LOST IN TRANSLATION: A LIFE IN A NEW LANGUAGE
Unforgettably sad . . . Szirtes has made [his mother’s] monument. It is a courageous and remarkable achievement. I’ve read no memoir that moved me more
— Miranda Seymour, Financial Times
A book full of warmth, grief, curiosity, wisdom, staggering anecdotes and a coming to terms with the vicissitudes of 20th-century history . . . [a] highly original telling of the author’s mother’s life and the heartrending events through which she lived
— Charlie Connelly, New European
As isolated snapshots build into a family portrait, and a historical fresco, we grasp the wider picture . . . beautiful, devastating
— Boyd Tonkin, The Arts Desk
The writing is always scrupulous . . . Knowledge is partly invention, Szirtes says, memory is mostly invention, and ‘the trick is to invent the truth.’ It may be a trick but it’s one he pulls off brilliantly in this compelling memoir
— Blake Morrison, Guardian
Elise Williams