Sunday, September 18, 2011

Skylark by Dezső Kosztolányi

"He stood for some minutes before the gate with all the patience of a lover waiting for the appearance of his beloved. But he was waiting for no one. He was no lover in the worldly sense; the only love he knew was that of divine understanding, of taking a whole life into his arms, stripping it of flesh and bone, and feeling into its depths as if they were his own. From this, the greatest pain, the greatest happiness is born; the hope that we too will one day be understood, strangers will accept our words, our lives, as if they were their own..."
Set in Hungary at the turn of the twentieth century, Skylark is the story of a family: father, mother, and daughter. They live together in the family home on a ramshackle street in a provincial town. The father feels old, and plans for his death, often fussing over the placement of his will and papers so that they are easy for his wife and daughter to find. The mother leaves household management to her daughter, dismissing the maid because she could not do as well as the daughter. She had loved playing the piano once but locked it away and out of their lives when her daughter did not take to it.

His daughter, Skylark, is no longer young, and not at all pretty. She had gotten her name years ago, "many, many years ago, when she still sang." The three of them love each other, and live quietly with only themselves for company. When Skylark goes away for a week to visit country cousins, the parents are unmoored, at first. But soon they experience a giddy sense of freedom from constraint.

Kosztolányi gives us the poignant inside story of a family outwardly content. The strain on all three of the daughter’s spinsterhood is something invisible to the wider community, and even to themselves, most of the time. We may think we have nothing in common with these desperate people,
"For yes, at first sight [the other townspeople] seemed worthless, twisted and distored, their souls curling inwards. They had no tragedy, for how could a tragedy begin to grow in such a wasteland? Yet how profound, how human they all were. How much like him. Once this became clear it could never be forgtten. So he did have something in common with them, after all."
The deep home-truths revealed in this novel involve all of us, especially those of us who have ever felt a sense of freedom and release simultaneously with fear and distress when a loved one leaves us home alone.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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