Daneet Steffens
December 18, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

The End of a Family Story

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Peter Nadas
publisher
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
genre
Fiction
We gave it an A-

Set in 1950s Hungary, Peter Nádas’ The End of the Family Story finds the narrator’s grandfather using marvelous tales to comfort his 5-year-old grandson, whose mother is dead and whose father is away playing some shadowy part in the oppressive political regime. The old man spins yarns out of history, turning the Jewish diaspora into a wanderlust fairy tale. The grandmother, more poignantly, waits for her son’s sporadic returns home: She keeps his room spotless, his clothesclean. The little boy’s observations — dentures in a glass, the ”empty little paths” between blades of grass — stand out in stark contrast to the grandfather’s tapestry of words and mark him as a member of a family whose eye for detail ensures a certain survival. A-

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