The Notebook Trilogy

Author(s): Agota Kristof

Fiction - Contemporary

Claus and Lucas are twins. Their new life begins when they are left with their grandmother, the 'Witch', in a village in an occupied country. It's wartime. Their angelic looks are deceiving. They are implacable, dangerously ethical; what motivates them is a deeply embedded morality of absolute need. The trilogy - The Notebook, The Proof and The Third Lie - follows their stories from the Second World War, through the years of communism and into a fractured Europe. In what could be seen as an allegory of post-war Europe, the twins become separated and are isolated in different countries. They yearn to be connected again, but perspectives shift, memories diverge, identity becomes unstable...Written in Kristof 's spare, direct style, The Notebook Trilogy is an exploration of the aftereffects of trauma, particularly on children, and of the nature of storytelling. In the tradition of J.M. Coetzee or Herta Muller, these novels explore truth and lies, shaped by a breathtaking artistic vision that is shocking, fascinating and utterly memorable. Praise for The Notebook Trilogy: 'An almost lyrical intensity...A fierce and disturbing novel.' New York Times 'A haunting, harrowing tale that lingers in the imagination long after you've turned the last page.' Washington Post 'I found it profoundly disturbing, incredibly well-written, and extraordinarily brave. And the fact that it was written by a woman - it has a startling brutality and ferocity about the style that I find very inspiring.' Eimear McBride, The Believer 'At the heart of this acrid trilogy, in all its studied understatement and lack of portentousness, we can feel the author's slow-burning rage at the wholesale erasure of certainty and continuity in the world of her childhood and adolescence. At the same time we sense Kristof saturninely enjoying this annihilation for its imaginative potential. She will reassemble a shattered world on her own rigorous terms, and watch us wince and shudder in the process.' Times Literary Supplement 'In prose stripped to a bare yet powerful structure, this intense parable reveals the triumph of literature in a politically repressive state.' Booklist 'The Notebook is a transfixing house of horrors.' New Statesman 'A dark study of the human psyche.' New York Times Book Review 'Closing this chillingly unsentimental novel, I felt that it had contrived to say absolutely everything about the Second World War and its aftermath in Central Europe.' Sunday Times

On The Notebook:


In an unnamed country [Hungary] during an unnamed war [WWII], twin brothers from the Big Town are deposited with their unknown grandmother in the Little Town [near the German border]. Their belongings are immediately taken and sold by their grandmother, apart from their father’s big dictionary, which they use to write their story in the big notebook they demand from the local bookseller on the basis of ‘absolute need’. They set rules for their writing: “The composition must be true. We must describe what is, what we see, what we hear, what we do. For example, it is forbidden to write, ‘Grandmother is like a witch,’ but we are allowed to write ‘People call Grandmother a witch’. We would write, ‘We eat a lot of walnuts’, and not, ‘We love walnuts,’ because the word ‘love’ is not a reliable word. Words that define feelings are very vague. It is better to avoid using them and stick to the description of objects, human beings, and oneself, that is to say, to the faithful description of facts.” The twins describe how they perform ‘exercises to toughen the body’ – hurting themselves and each other until they no longer cry when they are hit, and ‘exercises to toughen the mind’ – subjecting each other to verbal abuse until they no longer blush and tremble when people insult them, and also repeating the words of affection their mother used to use to them until their eyes no longer fill with tears: “By force of repetition, these words gradually lose their meaning, and the pain they carry in them is assuaged.” Unable to be separated, controlled or opposed, the twins practise the only virtue left in a world rendered amoral by war: survival. ‘Absolute need’ is the basis of their interactions with others: they demand boots from the cobbler so they can go about in the winter, they blackmail the priest on behalf of the unfortunate Harelip, they comply with the masochistic requests of the Foreign Officer because of his ‘absolute need’ (which is no less absolute for being psychological), they wreak disfiguring revenge on the priest’s housekeeper because of her mocking of the passing [Jewish] Human Herd’s absolute need for bread. The narrators’ dual identity, the pared-back matter-of-fact prose without metaphor or superfluity, the rigour with which small and horrendous matters are treated with flat equivalence make this book powerful, moving (while remaining unsentimental) and memorable. In her brief autobiography, The Illiterate, Kristof describes how The Notebook began as a set of memories of her own childhood, which she wrote in French, a ‘foreign’ language she was learning as a (rather regretful) refugee. The Notebook was one of the texts used in The Quiet Volume, an interactive reading experience for two that was a highlight of Writers Week at the recent New Zealand Festival. I got myself a copy straight away. The Notebook is my discovery of the year so far. - Thomas                   [2014]


Product Information

'An almost lyrical intensity...A fierce and disturbing novel.' New York Times 'A haunting, harrowing tale that lingers in the imagination long after you've turned the last page.' Washington Post 'I found it profoundly disturbing, incredibly well-written, and extraordinarily brave. And the fact that it was written by a woman-it has a startling brutality and ferocity about the style that I find very inspiring.' Eimear McBride, The Believer 'At the heart of this acrid trilogy, in all its studied understatement and lack of portentousness, we can feel the author's slow-burning rage at the wholesale erasure of certainty and continuity in the world of her childhood and adolescence. At the same time we sense Kristof saturninely enjoying this annihilation for its imaginative potential. She will reassemble a shattered world on her own rigorous terms, and watch us wince and shudder in the process.' Times Literary Supplement 'In prose stripped to a bare yet powerful structure, this intense parable reveals the triumph of literature in a politically repressive state.' Booklist 'The Notebook is a transfixing house of horrors.' New Statesman 'A dark study of the human psyche.' New York Times Book Review 'Closing this chillingly unsentimental novel, I felt that it had contrived to say absolutely everything about the Second World War and its aftermath in Central Europe.' Sunday Times

Agota Kristof, born in Csikvand, Hungary, in 1935, became an exile in French-speaking Switzerland in 1956. Working in a factory, she slowly learned French, the language of her adopted country. Her first novel The Notebook (1986), gained international recognition and was translated into more than thirty languages. It was followed by the sequels in the trilogy, The Proof (1988), and The Third Lie (1991). In 2004 Kristof published a memoir, The Illiterate, about her childhood, her escape from Hungary in 1956, her learning a new language as a refugee, and writing in this new 'alien' language, French. She also wrote plays and further novels. She died in 2011. Alan Sheridan, translator of The Notebook, has translated over fifty books, including works by Sartre, Lacan, Foucault and Robbe-Grillet. David Watson is the translator of The Proof. Marc Romano is the translator of The Third Lie.

General Fields

  • : 9781925240894
  • : Text Publishing Co
  • : The Text Publishing Company
  • : January 2016
  • : 234mm X 153mm
  • : Australia
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Paperback
  • : 416
  • : en
  • : 480
  • : Agota Kristof