Apocryphal Gospel (Ágnes Mészöly: The Gospel of Martha)


A bunch of stories become entangled in a complex network in Ágnes Mészöly’s novel, which tells the possible and very real fate of a multitude of women – without judging, revealing or reaching any conclusions about them. It leaves all this to the reader, as well as which of the many life situations and mosaics presented or just flashed to which you will focus from your own point of view. And you have something to choose from. The novel basically runs the stories of two women in parallel. One focuses on Martha of Bethany, known from the Christian Gospels and biblical texts, who follows with her brothers, Lazarus and Mary, the follower of Jesus of Nazareth it is narrated again, and the faith sanctified by the canon expands. Using it as a palimpsest, a text that has already been known and interpreted in many ways in the narration of men. The female perspective is by no means incidental, but in fact “service,” “exposure,” is the dominant function: the man who always subordinates himself to others (comfort, well-being, needs, etc.) and considers it more important that even at the Last Supper let appropriate food be put on the table, as if he himself should take part in it, listening to the teaching of the need for faith. He only gets “crumbs” of both – but still, by some miracle, one of the mostcallit becomes a “disciple”. Our other protagonist, Márta Molnár – who tells her story in the first person, addressing her doctor’s husband, in today’s self-reflexive colloquial language – is a forty-plus Hungarian woman of the early twenty-first century who lives her upper-middle class life in the capital. He is the epitome of the type of woman who always relinquishes her individual ambitions: she stops her promising medical studies because of her husband’s career and raising her children, the well-being of the family takes precedence over her, serves , he gets all the “homework”: cleaning, cooking, gardening, etc. Then come the events in your life when you have to face yourself. But he finds an almost cool place for it: the many humble ministries have made him invisible to himself as well, he essentially doesn’t even know who he is, who he has become in recent decades. Especially for him his faith in himself must find. And in this – as one of the staples between the stories of the two (or many) Martha – there is a strange, “miracle-working” Jesus / apostle-like figure to help him, at least as a kind of primus engine (and this doesn’t mean the cool Tesla car). , but it also makes you think about your life. (Of course, it is especially thought-provoking that Martha has to serve and nurture her as much as her father or other family members…) All of them try to help with the traditional female / housewife activities, but definitely with housework (grassing, ironing men’s shirts, chameleon keeping, window dressing, health care in the winter months, setting up a home library, caring for fascians). At the same time, the text of the two events, which take place 2,000 years apart and spatially elsewhere, is already intertwined, and gives interpreters the opportunity to discover various parallels, coincidences, and differences that have been placed next to each other at all – lining up and dragging many other contexts. In addition to the biblical tradition and the interpretability of beliefs and faith itself, for example, the spaces of today’s Hungarian social environment (and Budapest transport) or the multiple approaches to emancipation, offering different colors and shades of male-female and parent-child relationships. Although we hear a “canon” orchestrated to female voice (s), the Gospel of Martha is by no means a “feminist” whimper of male oppression — although its legitimate yet ironic tone is heard from polyphony, it is only a projection of the extremely dense accumulation of life depicted. The broader discussion is “what do we do with our lives?”, “Is the decision in our own hands?” and “when do we make the right decision?” types of suggestions, if they can be provided in a much more general (and alarming) but perhaps more expedient way. And the extent to which this will be truly immersive also points to the literary value of the novel. (Prae Publishing, 2021. p. 332) (Open sentence)

Source: Népszava by nepszava.hu.

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