A poet's memoir of his mother that flows backwards through time, through a tumultuous period of European history - a tender and yet unsparing autobiographical journey.
**RADIO 4's BOOK OF THE WEEK FROM 15 March 2021**
"A truly remarkable book . . . fiercely compelling" EDMUND DE WAAL
*WINNER OF THE JAMES TAIT BLACK MEMORIAL PRIZE* *SHORTLISTED FOR THE JEWISH WINGATE PRIZE*
"I've read no memoir that moved me more" MIRANDA SEYMOUR
"The writing is always scrupulous . . . [a] compelling memoir" BLAKE MORRISON
"Beautifully written and utterly compelling" Sunday Times
"An original, probingly thoughtful memoir" EVA HOFFMANN
In July 1975, George Szirtes' mother, Magda, died in an ambulance, on her way to hospital after attempting to take her own life. She was fifty-one years old. This memoir is an attempt to make sense of what came before, to re-construct who Magda Szirtes really was. The Photographer at Sixteen moves from her death, spooling backwards through her years as a mother, through sickness and exile in England, the family's flight from Hungary in 1956, her time in two concentration camps, her girlhood as an ambitious photographer and her vanished family in Transylvania.
The woman who emerges, fleetingly, fragmentarily - with her absolutism, her contradictions, her beauty - is utterly captivating. What were the terrors and obsessions that drove her? The Photographer at Sixteen reveals a life that is at Magda Szirtes from the depths of the end to the comparable safety of the photographer's studio where she first appears as a small child. It is a book born of curiosity, guilt and love.