From an article in Maine Insights.
In this intriguing collection, Esther Pasztory, explores the interweaving of the intellect and the imagination with the daily life inside a traditional marriage and the gifts each has to give to the other. The readers’ many transitions between the two worlds, reflective of Ms. Pasztory’s own life, are easy, as both worlds are attractive, and yet, it is Pasztory’s imaginative apparitions and musings that are most illuminating.
When Quetzalcoatl’s pre-Columbian baritone in Conversations with Quetzalcoatl, forces open the quiet in Anna’s twenty-first-century study, and he appropriates the most comfortable piece of furniture in the room, a love seat, readers know they are in for a love story. However, this is not only a love story of an inspired female intellect searching for the true identity of Quetzalcoatl (is he pre-Columbian because he dreams in Nahuatl or Colonial Mexican, the greatest god in Mesoamerica?) but also the tale of a tender twenty-first-century marriage between Anna and her husband, Roy, one in which the couple eat by candlelight, wait for each other in bed, love their children and grandchildren. Quetzalcoatl offers Anna a world beyond the clouds. Roy offers her a Friday fish fry dinner down at the Dockyard Café to celebrate a beautiful late summer’s day in Maine.
Conversations with Quetzalcoatl is Published by Maine’s Polar Bear & Company of Solon.
In “The Brave,” Ms. Pasztory contrasts the powers of a Lenni Lenape Indian ghost and a practical wife to affect the destiny of a depressed Pennsylvania man recovering from a triple bypass operation, while in “The Lover,” Pasztory explores the fatal appearances of forces from beyond in the ancient antiquities and festivals of Mexico.
In “The Gentleman in the Elevator,” two women of Hungarian parentage, one still in Budapest and the other in a large American city, write to each other of their lives. One details the cascading horrors of her daily life; the other tells of her creation and manipulation of the ghosts in hers. The hyperbole is deft and the black humor farcical.
This group of five stories is anchored by the final and longest short story, “My Jo,” yet in this most interesting search for identity, told the in first person, nothing is anchored. Two Hungarian expatriates, refugees from the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union, have found each other and live compatibly together in a marriage that has lasted almost forty years. While Margo, the geneticist wife, is still engaged in her search for square tomatoes that will pack and travel well, the narrator, a designer, has arranged to leave his work and ruminate on the American character formed by birthright. The narrator begins to write a novel and creates a companion for this search, Jo, a multi-generation American, born on an island off the coast of Maine. She becomes an uncomplaining companion and a great foil for this Hungarian’s disquisition on the American character. The reader passes in and out of the narrator’s novel, which will never be finished, and the actual peripatetic adventures from coast to coast, south to north, even unto Alaska, as through a kaleidoscope of pontificating and yearning. On these picaresque journeys with a stranger in a strange land, much is learned through the ruminations of a gifted first-generation American.
Ms. Pasztory’s five stories, at once humorous and haunting, bring the reader to a knowledge of both her intellectual accomplishment and her rich inner life. They create an immense space for the reader’s intellect and tenderness.
–From the Foreword by Nancy B. Hodermarsky
About the author: Esther Pasztory
Esther Pasztory’s many and innovative nonfiction publications in her field of expertise opened new cross-cultural vistas that are further explored in these five short stories.
“I am often looking for a humorous, lighthearted read on a serious topic, with a bit of fantasy thrown in. So I wrote some myself. As a Hungarian immigrant, my fascination is with the Americas, from Maine to Mexico, all interesting places, all temporarily homes. Some still inhabited by the ghosts of Indians.” –Esther Pasztory
Esther Pasztory is the Lisa and Bernard Selz Professor of pre-Columbian Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. She was born in Hungary and is the author of a memoir entitled “Remove Trouble from Your Heart,” 2008. Her fiction work includes the historical romance “Daughter of the Pyramids: Colonial Tales,” 2002, and a sequel, “The Death of Professor Brown,” in preparation. She has published extensively in the field of pre-Columbian art.