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I just finished the eight draft of my novel, Uprising or (When I Was Better). In 2015, The Damage is Done, my multi-disciplinary show starring myself and renowned author, thinker and speaker Dr. Gabor Maté toured to the Banff Centre and the Cultch in Vancouver and to the Yukon Arts Centre in 2014. see productiveobsession.com). Artists involved in the project were director/writer Ken Cameron, Peter Hinton as dramaturge, designer Sandi Somers and choreographer Helen Husak. In the summer of 2014, I began a collaboration with New York photographer Robert Kalman on a project that focuses on the elderly population in Hungary – those that thrived under Communism and those that did not – aptly named, Thrivers & Survivors. I continue work in this book over the course of this year. In the summer of 2014, my co-written play 52 Pick Up received a production at the Toronto Fringe, Hollywood Fringe and in London, England at Theatre 503. In 2012, 52 Pick Up was translated into Icelandic and French and performed in Reykjavik and France. Also in 2014, my short fiction piece,  A Few Small Nips, was published in The New Quarterly (edition 130). In 2012, State Controlled Paprika won 3rd Prize for Creative Non-fiction in the Great Canadian Literary Hunt by THIS Magazine.

I read your story My Fair Lady and it’s so great! Beautifully written, truly, and sad and soulful. Also, I have to say you write about sex better than most. But what I love about it most is your style. And all the characters are really well-drawn and distinct. I’d love to read more! You write really well, R, what a  beautiful surprise–not that I would have thought that you didn’t write well but it’s so sweetly gratifying to read something great from a new writer. 

Miriam Toews

 

Uprising or When I Was Better (a novel)

As young Etelka and István witness the persecution of post-WWII Hungary and the insidious erosion of its civil society at the hands of the secret police - who take their orders from the newly installed Soviet regime - they begin a relationship that will suffer from the impact of a country trembling with fear. István vacillates between a need for security and self-protection and the longing to be involved in political change. Etelka yearns to restore peace and beauty to a world that she believes has been destroyed, not only by the Soviet system, but also by men. When István braves his involvement in the Hungarian Revolution, he will be forced to flee Hungary, eventually making his way to Canada. The fateful decision to escape without Etelka and their eight month-old son means their relationship will never be the same. For seven years they are separated, a punishment meted out by the Communists government. When Etelka is finally permitted to leave Hungary, and the family is reunited, István and Etelka find an emotional gap they are never able to bridge. 



State Controlled Paprika (a memoir)

From the day my mother recounted the story of my father’s escape from Hungary, I’ve been obsessed with the Hungarian Revolution. My mother's bedtime stories stirred my imagination, her seven years spent separated from my father, trapped in Hungary living under Soviet oppression.

A fusion of poetic documentary, essay and memoir, State Controlled Paprika is instilled with epigenetics and embryology. It takes an honest look at the lasting impact of my family's separation and how their choices unconsciously whispered through my cells and became my own.  I return to modern day Hungary to discover how the Hungarian mentality has changed, or in some cases changed very little.  I explore how this mindset functions in myself as well.

 

Thrivers & Survivors (photos and profiles)

Thrivers & Survivors, a collaboration between photographer Robert Kalman and Rita Bozi, will feature photographs and profiles of sixteen Hungarians, including a millionaire businessman, an acclaimed filmmaker, a famous pianist, a noted politician, ex-factory workers and a former rocket scientist. Some citizens survived Communism, many suffered and others were forced to flee. And yet a significant portion of those interviewed also thrived under the system and express a great deal of nostalgia. 

Robert works with a large format camera that seems positively vintage in the context of the fin-de-siècle streets of Budapest.  Robert says he works with this style of camera because “people present themselves very differently to a big camera; it’s more formal, more serious. It requires a different level of effort and concentration for us both.”

The interviews were completed in the summer of 2014. I am in the midst of transcribing and translating them into English. The transcriptions will then be written into a profile/essay format chronicling each subject’s life under the Soviet system. At the end of the interviews I concluded:

What was so eye opening for me, was that I had always assumed that most people didn’t want Communism/Socialism in Hungary but in fact there was a time in its history when life was relatively good and peaceful for many, in the mid-1980s. It as during this time that the soft dictatorship came closest to providing an interesting life for its citizens, wherein people had housing, jobs, education, healthcare, culture and perhaps a stew of ideologies making up government policy. After interviewing people on both the left and the right and after reflecting on my own Canadian democracy, I am not sure that any system works.

This work is a work in progress.