Introduction for Anca Szilágyi
November 18, 2018
by Virginia Bellis Brandabur
Our next reader, Anca Szilágyi, migrated from New York City to the Pacific Northwest, where she’s been recognized as one of the “fresh new faces in Seattle fiction.” The Seattle Review of Books has said Anca’s “work is like a fairy tale – the sort of thing you’d find handwritten on a tiny scroll… under a mushroom in the middle of a forest on the longest day of the year.” And while I agree that Anca’s writing is magical and enchanting, we cannot just leave it there.
For when you listen closely to Anca’s stories, a chill will brush over your skin. You might feel compelled to peer into the shadows. You will find yourself whispering, “What is that? What is going on?” And you will most certainly feel uncomfortable with the one-sided silence confronting you there, as if you had only just missed words uttered by a ghost. Yes, Anca’s stories will haunt you with silence.
In her short fiction piece, “Scrolling Through the Feed,” Anca makes us witness to a string of surreal and seemingly disconnected events – a man with a “big smile and a steak knife” chasing another, a couple sharing a warm beer on discarded armchairs perhaps “covered in cat pee,” “two bandit-like fellas” firing up a chainsaw in a public park, and a man waving his arms in the middle of the street. Yet on closer examination, these events are connected by the narrator’s unwillingness to speak up. This action of remaining quiet, of failing to speak out about the wrong in the world, makes the narrator – and us, as readers – complicit in the violence, the addiction, and the accident waiting to happen.
In her most recent novel, Daughters of the Air, Anca explores ever more dire consequences of keeping silent. The story, of a family whose father was disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War, opens with the utter necessity of silence; literally a matter of life and death. Of the terror and chaos and victims of the ongoing war, “it was best not to talk of such things.” Yet survival through silence has a cost. For mother and daughter, left to live with the yawing terror of such a disappearance, every interaction is fraught with what is left unspoken. “Unutterable, unutterable. Their dialogue of glances went something like this: What could we say to each other? Why do we hesitate?” As their ongoing silence only makes things worse, we find ourselves left beseeching her characters, “Why don’t you say something?”
Perhaps this is just what Anca wants us to ask ourselves.
Please join me in welcoming Anca Szilágyi.