Hungarian Writer Ágota Kristóf’s Best Works That You Must Read

Most probably, the Hungarian author Ágota Kristóf’s debut in 1986 had been forgotten by most. But not those who have already discovered her universe. She was a remarkably gifted author with a sense of simplicity and heart-touching characteristic. And for her completely distinctive writing style, there were and will be many who are taken aback.

Not to mention, those who picked up “The Notebook, The Proof, and The Third Lie: Three Novels” published in 1997 in English translationwere perhaps also put into a state of reading trance. Moreover, some of her books are the kind that makes you forget to get off the bus, tram, and light rail. If you are waiting for that kind of adventurous book, let’s check Ágota Kristóf’s Best Works that you must read.

The Notebook Trilogy

The Modern Classic – The Notebook Trilogy

Among Ágota Kristóf’s best works, “The Notebook” the first of the trilogy is a must-read which was first published in 1986 and the English translation was published in 1988 for the first time.  This is a wonderful story of the two twin brothers who are sent to their tyrannical grandmother in the countryside while the war rages around them. The Notebook trilogy is an absolute modern classic.

Simply put the first book of the trilogy into perspective,

Kristof's novel is moving in the truest sense of the word - it doesn't leave you with a tear in the corner of your eye, but with the feeling of having read something disturbing about what humans are capable of, with questions about what the author might have gone through in order to write like this. The novel combines most of the meanings of the word fabulous in one rich text.

Before the Kristóf fever really took hold of Europe, the Hungarian has long been recognized as a kind of writer’s writer by many. Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek said that this book made him discover what kind of person he wanted to be. The Danish writer Jonas T. Bengtsson had to stop reading many of his colleagues because they no longer told him anything. 

Book 2: The Proof

The Twins’ Diary is the first book in the trilogy that has remained Kristóf’s masterpiece. And the second book was just the continuation of the masterpiece. Book number two (La Preuve) was published in 1988 and was translated into English in 1991 named The Proof. This part of the trilogy has the intriguing power to make people forget the present and take them back to Kristóf’s time.

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The novel “The Proof” tells the story of twins named: Lucas and Claus. After his twin brother’s disappearance across the border, Lucas is alone, confused, and torn from a part of himself.

He tries to do good in a country where evil has taken control and people struggle with the trauma of the war. The only evidence of life with his brother is the stories written down in the large notebook.

When it came out Kristóf’s readers had probably been as excited about volume two of the trilogy as the first. And it is just because the story continues almost seamlessly in volume two. And the pressure from the first volume does not diminish to any significant extent here either, even if the ingenious move of letting the twins appear as one narrator is not repeated.

Book 3: The Third Lie

The third and last book in the trilogy is called The third lie in English Translation which was translated and published in 1996. It is a novel that expands the author’s very special literary universe, and which, puts human concepts of good or evil at stake.

After decades in exile, Lucas moves back to the town of his childhood. He remembers the years of solitude, the separation from his twin brother Claus, the war, and the refuge with his grandmother whom people called “the witch”. Now he wants to try to find his brother Claus. But what if your whole life was based on a lie?

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The Third Lie kept all the readers in the loop and with this book, readers have an unforgettable Kristof time taken aback to her time and feel the pain. The Trilogy reflects well within the writer’s time and herself. And these books are Ágota Kristóf’s best works that everyone should read with a whole heart.

The Illiterate: Kristof’s Autobiographical Masterpiece

After Kristof’s The Notebook Trilogy, The Illiterate is the most prominent work. This is a fascinating little autobiography, Agota Kristof writes in the same direct and concise manner as in the Trilogy. There are also many events that mirror the universe of the trilogy, which help give readers an understanding of how she could write the way she did.   

The Illiterate is a short and intense story about a woman who felt Europe’s 20th-century history on her body, more strongly than most others, and who had an unusual talent for – and unusually strong feelings for – words. Most probably, it is the reason why this book is considered to be a slim dagger of memoir.

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The book consists of eleven small stories that form a larger story. Kristof writes about going to school in Hungary where her father was a teacher, the painful separation from her brother who was sent to boarding school, how she started keeping a diary, about the Stalin cult, and her escape from Hungary. She describes the first years in Switzerland as a desert walk – without context, without language, without being able to read or write. Eventually, Agota Kristof learned to master the French language in writing, without relying on her own skills. The dictionary was always in front of her while she wrote.

In short, if you want to know this wonderful Hungarian writer and want to understand her work, The Trilogy and “The Illiterate” are the books you must read. It will surely provide you with the feeling that Kristof must have felt along with the millions of Europeans during that time.   

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