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Translated by Anthea Bell
She is a healthy seventy-one-year-old woman. He is a dying eighty-two-year-old man. This couple, who have been united through the horrors of twentieth-century Europe, and through the joys of love and family, cannot live up to the vows they made nearly fifty years ago to stay together ‘until death do us part’: they will die as one, never to be parted. On 13 October 1991 they take their own lives, together.
Sixteen years later, their granddaughter Johanna Adorján digs through her family history to piece together the puzzle of the exotic and mysterious couple she knew only in fragments. She dares to give voice to her grandparents’ experiences as Hungarian Jews in the Holocaust, which her family has always labelled ‘something we don’t talk about’. She learns, too, how these experiences have shaped her family and the person she is today.
Not only a Holocaust memoir, An Exclusive Love is both a love story and a journey of self-understanding; beautifully told, vividly depicted and emotionally exquisite.
I was very much moved by An Exclusive Love—such clarity of thought and feeling. What I think of Anthea Bell as a translator is little short of reverence, after what she did for W. G. Sebald: one trusts her absolutely, so I know for sure that Johanna Adorján writes with beautiful precision and suppleness. It’s a truly memorable book.
‘In imagining what her grandparents’ feelings and actions might have been on their last day, Adorjan hits upon a powerful dramatic structure that builds from the quotidian to the shocking…Sensitive, intelligent and profoundly moving, An Exclusive Love will leave you stunned.‘
‘What emerges is a story that is troubling in its immediacy, and which, via an intuitive sensitivity, captures a striking truth…Very simply, without pathos, without artifice, this personal account is written with the infinite gentleness of sorrow that has found peace.’