The Book of Mordechai and Lazarus: Two Novels by Gábor Schein
Translators: Adam Z. Levy and Ottilie Mulzet
Both novels trace the legacy of the Holocaust in Hungary. The Book of Mordechai tells the story of three generations in a Hungarian Jewish family, interwoven with the biblical narrative of Esther. Lazarus relates the relationship between a son, growing up in the in the final decades of late-communist Hungary, and his father, who survived the depredations of Hungarian fascists during World War II. Mordechai is an act of recovery—an attempt to seize a coherent story from a historical maelstrom. By contrast, Lazarus, like Kafka’s unsent letter to his own father, is an act of defiance. Against his father’s wish to never be the subject of his son’s writing, the narrator places his father at the center of his story. Together, both novels speak to a contemporary Hungarian society that remains all too silent towards the crimes of the past.