Shortlisted for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2019
The poet George Szirtes’s memoir of his mother that flows backwards through time, and through a tumultuous period of European history – a tender and yet unsparing autobiographical journey.
In July 1975, Magda Szirtes died in the ambulance on the way to hospital after she had tried to take her own life. She was fifty-one years old. The Photographer at Sixteen spools into the past, through her exile in England, her flight with her husband and two young boys from Hungary in 1956 and her time in two concentration camps, her girlhood as an ambitious photographer, and the unknowable fate of her vanished family in Transylvania.
The woman who emerges – with all her contradictions – is utterly captivating. What were the terrors and obsessions that drove her? The Photographer at Sixteen reveals a life from the depths of its final days to the comparable safety of its childhood. It is a book born of curiosity, of guilt and of love.
‘A truly remarkable book . . . fiercely compelling’ Edmund de Waal