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The full story is always out of reach

Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Drawing on Portuguese writer Maria Gabriela Llansol’s idea that "writing is the double of living", my lecture will explore the challenges one faces when preparing a book that consumes the author's life and even seeps into her dreams as she attempts to write it. I will introduce some of my own ideas of what a story containing several life stories can be like – my own and others', and how one may combine history, fiction and non-fiction in order to deal with the spiralling trajectory of a family. Having lived in Budapest during the city’s greatest period of urban development – identifying with the cultural milieu of Neolog Jews and holding cosmopolitan and progressive aspirations – my Hungarian ancestors left Budapest for Trieste and, following the onset World War II, fled Europe to live in Rio de Janeiro. Somehow, they managed to stay true to a certain atmosphere and mentality, which, to my surprise, I immediately recognised during my encounters and research in Budapest. How is it that one can arrive in a strange city and feel as if one were meeting an old relative, unknown yet familiar, who seems to have sat for centuries on the same couch, just waiting for you to come over and chat? I try to understand the identity of these people not in a monolithic way, but rather as a series of intermittent vestiges, which accumulate over time, but which are also inevitably lost. Marriage contracts, 19th-century tourism in Central Europe and the mutual attraction between Trieste and Budapest have also become essential to my project. I will comment on the creative strategies I employed in my previous novel “Pavlov’s Squirrels” and on the pitfalls – distressing, yet perhaps also inspiring – that I have created for myself in the book I am currently writing, within the context of the CEU fellowship programme. I will also comment on models or ideas concerning storytelling that serve as inspiration for this project, found in the works of Karen Blixen, Claudio Magris and Cesar Aira.