Tranquility Attila Bartis, trans. from the Hungarian by Imre Goldstein. Archipelago (Consortium, dist.), $15 paper (296p) ISBN 9780980033007
The first work by Bartis to be translated into English follows Ander Weer through 15 years dominated by his oedipal relationship with his agoraphobic mother, Rebeka, while, outside, Hungary transitions from Soviet satellite to independent state. Star of Hungarian stage and screen, Rebeka is humiliatingly demoted from lead actress to supporting role in an underhanded bid to pressure her into convincing her daughter, a concert violinist, to return to Hungary. Instead, Rebeka declares her daughter dead and retreats into her apartment, where she remains until her death. Ander becomes complicit in his mother’s isolation and fuels the growing oddity of their relationship by writing brief letters to his mother as though they were written by his sister. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Eszter, grows increasingly unstable as Ander refuses to leave his mother for her. Oddly beautiful and unsettling, the novel boldly illustrates the lengths people go to in securing their own private hells.