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Tranquility is a living seismograph of the internal quakes and ruptures of a mother and son trapped within an Oedipal nightmare amidst the suffocating totalitarian embrace of Communist Hungary. Andor Weér, a thirty-six-year-old writer, lives in a small apartment with his shut-in mother, Rebeka, who was once among the most celebrated stage actresses in Budapest. Unable to withstand her maniacal tyranny but afraid to leave her alone, their bitter interdependence spirals into a Sartrian hell of hatred, lies, and appeasement. Then Andor meets the beautiful and nurturing Eszter, a woman who seems to have no past, and they fall wildly in love at first sight. With a fulfilling life seemingly within reach for the first time, Andor decides that he is ready to bring Eszter home to meet Mother. Though Bartis’s characters are unrepentantly neurotic and dressed in the blackest humor, his empathy for them is profound. A political farce of the highest ironic order, concluding that “freedom is a condition unsuited to humans,” Tranquility is ultimately, at its splanchnic core, a complex psychodrama turned inside out, revealing with visceral splendor the grotesque ideal that there’s nothing funnier than unhappiness.
Bartis at times puts one in mind of Joyce, at others of Kafka, at others of Roth, yet ultimately eludes all comparison by the strength of his originality."
—Arturo Mantecón, ForeWord
Oddly beautiful and unsettling, the novel boldly illustrates the lengths people go to in securing their own private hells."
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Reading like the bastard child of Thomas Bernhard and Elfriede Jelinek, Tranquility is political and personal suffering distilled perfectly and transformed into dark, viscid beauty. It is among the most haunted, most honest, and most human novels I have ever read."
With impressive force of language, Bartis succeeds in laying bare the ambivalences of his characters, their love-hate relationships and self-destructive energies…The play that mother and son perform...is part Strindberg and part Chekhov, but mostly sheer Beckett or even pure theater of cruelty."
—Richard Kämmerlings, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
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