This long out-of-print novel by Hungarian writer Kosztolanyi (1885-1936) takes place in Budapest just after the end of WW I. The city is occupied by Romanian troops after having undergone two brief social revolutions. The novel focuses on the plight of a young peasant woman who comes to work as a maid for the Vizys, a pathologically self-absorbed middle-class couple who are struggling to maintain their social standing amidst the ever-changing political climate. Pleased with Anna's almost robotic work ethic, Mrs. Vizy becomes obsessed with maintaining her servant's loyalty through psychological manipulation. A metaphor for the inhumanity of Hungary's precarious bourgeoisie, the novel follows Anna's victimization by her employers, her fellow servants and the Vizys' dissolute nephew as she struggles to achieve even the slightest emotional connection. Kosztolanyi's characters are ironic to the point of caricature, except Anna, whose inexplicable simple-mindedness limits the reader's sympathy for her. The novel nevetheless provides fascinating insight into a volatile period in Europe's history, laying bare the barbarism and hypocrisy inherent in all strata of society. (Nov.)
Though perhaps not readily familiar to American readers, Anna Edes is one of Hungary's best-known classics. Published in 1926 (it was published in the United States in 1947), the novel is a commentary on the country's social ills as symbolized by the title character, a decent working woman exploited by her wicked employer. A strong title for public and academic foreign literature collections.