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In Praise of Older Women: The Amorous Recollections of András Vajda

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"A cool, comic survey of the sexual education of a young Hungarian, from his first encounter, as a twelve-year-old refugee with the American forces, to his unsatisfactory liaison with a reporter's wife in Canada at the belated end of his youth, when he was twenty-three . . . elegantly erotic, with masses of that indefinable quality, style . . . this has the real stuff of i "A cool, comic survey of the sexual education of a young Hungarian, from his first encounter, as a twelve-year-old refugee with the American forces, to his unsatisfactory liaison with a reporter's wife in Canada at the belated end of his youth, when he was twenty-three . . . elegantly erotic, with masses of that indefinable quality, style . . . this has the real stuff of immortality."—B. A. Young, Punch "A pleasure. Vizinczey writes of women beautifully, with sympathy, tact and delight, and he writes about sex with more lucidity and grace than most writers ever acquire."—Larry McMurtry, Houston Post "Like James Joyce, who was as far from being a writer of erotica as Dostoevsky, Vizinczey has a refreshing message to deliver: Life is not about sex, sex is about life."—John Podhoretz, Washington Times "The gracefully written story of a young man growing up among older women . . . although some passages may well arouse the reader, this novel brims with what the courts have termed "redeeming literary merit."—Clarence Petersen, Chicago Tribune "A funny novel about sex, or rather (which is rarer) a novel which is funny as well as touching about sex . . . elegant, exact and melodious—has style, presence and individuality."—Isabel Quigly, Sunday Telegraph "The delicious adventures of a young Casanova who appreciates maturity while acquiring it himself. In turn naive, sophisticated, arrogant, disarming, the narrator woos his women and his tale wins the reader."—Polly Devlin, Vogue


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"A cool, comic survey of the sexual education of a young Hungarian, from his first encounter, as a twelve-year-old refugee with the American forces, to his unsatisfactory liaison with a reporter's wife in Canada at the belated end of his youth, when he was twenty-three . . . elegantly erotic, with masses of that indefinable quality, style . . . this has the real stuff of i "A cool, comic survey of the sexual education of a young Hungarian, from his first encounter, as a twelve-year-old refugee with the American forces, to his unsatisfactory liaison with a reporter's wife in Canada at the belated end of his youth, when he was twenty-three . . . elegantly erotic, with masses of that indefinable quality, style . . . this has the real stuff of immortality."—B. A. Young, Punch "A pleasure. Vizinczey writes of women beautifully, with sympathy, tact and delight, and he writes about sex with more lucidity and grace than most writers ever acquire."—Larry McMurtry, Houston Post "Like James Joyce, who was as far from being a writer of erotica as Dostoevsky, Vizinczey has a refreshing message to deliver: Life is not about sex, sex is about life."—John Podhoretz, Washington Times "The gracefully written story of a young man growing up among older women . . . although some passages may well arouse the reader, this novel brims with what the courts have termed "redeeming literary merit."—Clarence Petersen, Chicago Tribune "A funny novel about sex, or rather (which is rarer) a novel which is funny as well as touching about sex . . . elegant, exact and melodious—has style, presence and individuality."—Isabel Quigly, Sunday Telegraph "The delicious adventures of a young Casanova who appreciates maturity while acquiring it himself. In turn naive, sophisticated, arrogant, disarming, the narrator woos his women and his tale wins the reader."—Polly Devlin, Vogue

30 review for In Praise of Older Women: The Amorous Recollections of András Vajda

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    Despite the outstanding humor, this book saddened me. I read it too late. Had I managed to get hold of this masterpiece when I was a teenager, I would have had a more colorful and satisfactory sex life. I won't spoil your fun of reading it by giving you the plot. But the author's dedication and a quote from Benjamin Franklin in its first chapter would give you an idea of what the book is all about. The dedication reads: "This book is dedicated to older women and is addressed to young men-- and the c Despite the outstanding humor, this book saddened me. I read it too late. Had I managed to get hold of this masterpiece when I was a teenager, I would have had a more colorful and satisfactory sex life. I won't spoil your fun of reading it by giving you the plot. But the author's dedication and a quote from Benjamin Franklin in its first chapter would give you an idea of what the book is all about. The dedication reads: "This book is dedicated to older women and is addressed to young men-- and the connection between the two is my proposition." And the quote from Benjamin Franklin goes: "In all your amours you should prefer old women to young ones...because they have greater knowledge of the world." An autobiographical work, the author was a young Hungarian boy during the second world war, participated during the Hungarian Revolt (against the Soviets) in 1956, emigrated to Canada to escape communist persecution, became a professor in a Toronto university, and wrote this book after observing young Canadians falter at love and the mating game. Well-written, often funny and occasionally profound. One of the 501 Must Read Books.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Lieberman

    I just learned from the NYTimes that Stephen Vizinczey has died. He had a new book coming out last spring and found me through my review of In Praise of Older Women. We struck up a correspondence and I am sad that he is no longer among us. I'm reposting the review in the hopes that others will discover this marvelous work. * * * * * Terribly clever, but not in an arch way. Vizinczey's worldliness is somehow fresh. Only at the end of the book does he begin to look at life with tired eyes, no longer I just learned from the NYTimes that Stephen Vizinczey has died. He had a new book coming out last spring and found me through my review of In Praise of Older Women. We struck up a correspondence and I am sad that he is no longer among us. I'm reposting the review in the hopes that others will discover this marvelous work. * * * * * Terribly clever, but not in an arch way. Vizinczey's worldliness is somehow fresh. Only at the end of the book does he begin to look at life with tired eyes, no longer quite so eager to embrace (literally and figuratively) all it offers. I especially enjoyed how the budding writer, as an adolescent, applied the lessons he learned from great nineteenth-century authors to his own seduction campaigns: Perhaps if I hadn't been reading Anna Karenina I wouldn't have been struck by the fact that she was referring to such an intimate matter as kissing to a strange kid who came to borrow books. But as it was, I felt this small confidence must have meaning. I began to hope.Leaving the sex aside (just for a minute, I promise), there's a story here about resilience. Visinczey's alter ego survives the loss of his father (assassinated by the Right), lives through the Second World War and endures a forced march to Austria, returning to Budapest to resume his education. Friends and relatives suffer under the Stalinist Rákosi era. One of his lovers, a musician who nearly wears him out, has an Auschwitz tattoo. In 1956 he's on the streets with his fellow students and subsequently flees Hungary before the Soviet tanks roll back in. So, yes. You only go around once in life, and you've got to grab for all the gusto you can get (and I don't mean Schlitz). The sex is good, too. Tame by today's standards, certainly, but Vizinczey's wholehearted endorsement of physical pleasure and extramarital dalliances without guilt is such a contrast to the tormented and prurient sex scenes written by Saul Bellow or Philip Roth in the same era! At one point his alter ego pauses to comment on the war of the sexes: "I am a pacifist," he says.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Samir Rawas Sarayji

    In Praise of Older Women is a phenomenal book! I had wanted to categorize it as erotic literature, but I think that would be misleading. Although András Vajda is telling us his story – in the form of a memoir – about his sexual conquests, the book is not about the act of sex per se, but about the relationships that build up to become sexual, or about the failures that lead to neuroses such as lack of confidence. It is also the story of a boy who becomes a man in a world ravaged by war, occupatio In Praise of Older Women is a phenomenal book! I had wanted to categorize it as erotic literature, but I think that would be misleading. Although András Vajda is telling us his story – in the form of a memoir – about his sexual conquests, the book is not about the act of sex per se, but about the relationships that build up to become sexual, or about the failures that lead to neuroses such as lack of confidence. It is also the story of a boy who becomes a man in a world ravaged by war, occupation, escape, and many loves. The childhood that András describes is riveting. At under ten years, he is a pimp, translating from Hungarian to English for the women, young or married, who leave the ghettos to service the Americans at their base (where he is staying), in return for receiving food luxuries like corned beef to take back and feed their families. It is a sad state of affairs, but then there was absolutely nothing pleasant or good about the second world war. At ten, young András discovers his knack for business, having all the cooks at the base save their used cooking fat rather than discarding it, and then hitching a ride with his gallons and selling it to the restaurant owners or families that can afford to pay for it. The young entrepreneur has started his career. But in all this, his interest and curiosity in women – especially older women – knows no bounds. She didn’t notice me, and when she stepped out of the shower I took her by surprise, kissed her breasts and pressed myself against her wet, warm body. Touching her, I was overcome with a happy weakness, and though I wanted to look at her I had to close my eyes. It was perhaps because she couldn’t help noticing the deep impression her body made on me, that she waited a few moments before pushing me back with revulsion. ‘Get out of here,’ she hissed, covering her nipples with her hands, ‘Turn your back!’ This curiosity will eventually lead him, along with the changing circumstances – end of the war to the eventual revolution against the communist occupiers – to a new life away from Hungary. He stays in Italy for a while as a refugee and eventually is relocated and settles in Toronto. He first earns his philosophy degree in Hungary and ends up teaching as a professor in Toronto. Again, what holds constant throughout his life is his interest and curiosity in older women. Although he tried to have relations with younger women, they always ended in disaster, which fed his neurosis. So, unlike his awkward, self-doubting youth, he becomes a lover of mainly married women. He has affairs, easily falls in love – a testament to his youthfulness – and moves on when one relationship ends. She delighted in every motion – or in just touching my bones and flesh. Maya wasn’t one of those women who depend on orgasm as their sole reward for a tiresome business: making love with her was a union, and not the inward masturbation of two strangers in the same bed. With maturity, his introspection and appreciation change. When interest is sparked in a woman, he appreciates the details and the imperfections. But if he deems a woman ugly, he is interested in the rationale that it would be easier to bed her. A terrible perspective but true to András character. The concept of aesthetics come to the forefront often, but I suppose the reality is that if the imperfections are just as exciting for András as perfection might be to someone else, then what he deems ugly is perhaps beautiful to someone else. And if that is not the case, then he is just as stereotyped as the stereotypes. Vizinczey writes beautiful prose that simultaneously captures the emotional resonance of András and lulls the reader into a sense of poetic eroticism: Late one Saturday morning, I was awakened by the heat. The sun was shining into my eyes through the curved window panes and gauzy white curtains, and the temperature in the room must have been at least ninety degrees. During the night we had kicked off the blanket and the top sheet, and Paola was lying on her back with her legs drawn up, breathing without a sound. We never look so much at the mercy of our bodies, in the grip of our unconscious cells, as when we are asleep. With a loud heartbeat, I made up my mind that this time I would make or break us. Slowly I separated her limbs: a thief parting branches to steal his way into a garden. Behind the tuft of blond grass I could see her dark-pink bud, with its two long petals standing slightly apart as if they, too, felt the heat. They were particularly pretty, and I began smelling and licking them with my old avidity. Soon the petals grew softer and I could taste the sprinkles of welcome, though the body remained motionless. By then Paola must have been awake, but pretended not to be; she remained in that dreamy state in which we try to escape responsibility for whatever happens, by disclaiming both victory and defeat beforehand. It may have been ten minutes or half an hour later (time had dissolved into a smell of pine) that Paola’s belly began to contract and let up, shaking, she finally delivered us her joy, that offspring not even transient lovers can do without. When her cup ran over she drew me up by my arms and I could at last enter her with a clear conscience.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    On my first day back to reading friends’ comments on Goodreads after a hiatus of several months, I came across a reference to Stephen Vizinczey. For the months I was away, I hadn’t been able to concentrate on reading myself, but I was anxious to write again. Since my blog is about reading, however, I could only really write if I could read. The title of this book appealed to me and I would see if perhaps I could concentrate. In Praise… is fiction in the guise of autobiography. The young male char On my first day back to reading friends’ comments on Goodreads after a hiatus of several months, I came across a reference to Stephen Vizinczey. For the months I was away, I hadn’t been able to concentrate on reading myself, but I was anxious to write again. Since my blog is about reading, however, I could only really write if I could read. The title of this book appealed to me and I would see if perhaps I could concentrate. In Praise… is fiction in the guise of autobiography. The young male character is a little brash, but only because, it appears, he was dearly loved in his childhood. He grew up thinking that everyone would love him as much as did his relatives and the monks of his adopted Franciscan monastery. “This book is addressed to young men and dedicated to older women…” he writes in the preface. ”Modern culture—American culture—glorifies the young; on the lost continent of old Europe it was the affair of the young man and his older mistress that had the glamour of perfection.” Right at the outset we sense the incisive mind of the writer. Rich with anecdote, Vizinczey’s descriptions of his character’s deflowering and sexual encounters with young and older women around the world are terribly amusing, and insightful into the differences between the sexes, and cultures. Relations with women in North America are painfully funny and catches males and females in our culture “in the nude,” so to speak, so clearly does he see our oddities and poke fun at our interactions. I wish I had known of this lovely classic when I was younger, though I wonder if I would have enjoyed it so completely and without inhibition. That may be the author’s lesson when he recommends the charms of older women to young men. If I had only known when I was younger how difficult and painful it was for young men “to get any,” I like to think I would have been more accommodating and open to experimentation. But perhaps it is only these older eyes that are so generous and gentle.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julian

    I am very ambivalent about this. On the one hand, some of the earlier sections, when the author is still somewhat awed by the whole 'sex' thing are really quite beautifully written. But then, later on, the author / narrator decides that women are there merely to be taken, and finds ridiculous the idea that a woman might not merely want to be seen as a potential conquest. More disturbing, some of the episodes of 'seduction' read, quite frankly, like rape. I do not think that any sane person, now, I am very ambivalent about this. On the one hand, some of the earlier sections, when the author is still somewhat awed by the whole 'sex' thing are really quite beautifully written. But then, later on, the author / narrator decides that women are there merely to be taken, and finds ridiculous the idea that a woman might not merely want to be seen as a potential conquest. More disturbing, some of the episodes of 'seduction' read, quite frankly, like rape. I do not think that any sane person, now, can describe as 'seduction' the events near the end of the book, where a woman says 'no', our hero pushes her up against a bed, pulls her blouse off, nuzzles her breasts, pushes her onto the bed, then penetrates her. That is rape. So is the event in the final chapter, where our hero 'seduces' a woman by pushing her into the corner of a room, then putting the whole weight of his body up against her. Naturally, the book should not be censored, but it should also not be printed without a health warning. Or, to be more exact, it should not be allowed out in public covered in dreamy, wistful reviews of how wonderful it is - all by men, I can't help but notice.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Darran Mclaughlin

    An excellent book. In Praise of Older Women is sexy without being sexist, warm and funny. It has a European sophistication and worldliness without being dry. Vizinczey has a positive attitude in spite of describing going through horrific situations like fleeing the Nazi, participating in the attempted revolution against the Soviets in 56 and becoming a refugee, leaving behind his family and friends. This should be a cult classic that young people read as eagerly as Salinger or Kerouac.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    It's hard to believe that I now fit in Andras Vadja's definition of the "older woman" (30s and 40s)..... This is a lushly erotic book that still manages to provide several coy refusals. Just like the experiences cataloged in the amorous recollections of Andras Vadja. It is an engrossing story of a young man growing up among older women; learning to love and to make love from older women...and doing it while going through war and revolution and personal discovery. It has all the eroticism of a tru It's hard to believe that I now fit in Andras Vadja's definition of the "older woman" (30s and 40s)..... This is a lushly erotic book that still manages to provide several coy refusals. Just like the experiences cataloged in the amorous recollections of Andras Vadja. It is an engrossing story of a young man growing up among older women; learning to love and to make love from older women...and doing it while going through war and revolution and personal discovery. It has all the eroticism of a truly naughty book without leaving the reader (regardless of conservative background, trust me) feeling that it should only be read behind closed doors. Stephen Vizinczey writes convincingly of women and the intricacies of love and seduction. The book ends with the line: "But the adventures of a middle-aged man are another story." This novel makes me wish he had told that one as well. I gave it three and a half stars out of five on Visual Bookshelf.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jigar Brahmbhatt

    That Vizinczey is a nuanced writer is beyond doubt. Being a European immigrant, he has brilliant command over English language and his amorous descriptions have a subtle wisdom to them. Here is a book which charts the various flings a man has had in his youth, and there was no way I'd have bothered to read it had the book restricted itself to just that. It's a sympathetic and delightful account of the sexual education of one Andras Vajda. For Andras, older women are a medium to learn not only ab That Vizinczey is a nuanced writer is beyond doubt. Being a European immigrant, he has brilliant command over English language and his amorous descriptions have a subtle wisdom to them. Here is a book which charts the various flings a man has had in his youth, and there was no way I'd have bothered to read it had the book restricted itself to just that. It's a sympathetic and delightful account of the sexual education of one Andras Vajda. For Andras, older women are a medium to learn not only about the bodily pleasures but about life as well. Like some scientists look for clues about life by serious observation into the space outside, Andras does so by participating with women in the most personal and intimate of spaces. The other sex is ever so mysterious and women are presented in their various avatars, whose initial company provide self-confidence and a sort of warmheartedness to young Andras. The beauty is that Andras tells his tale with a sort of naivety and curiosity that makes you care for him from the word go. He does not want to fabricate. He doesn't bother whether he is politically correct or go by the accepted feminist codes. He just tells it the way it is, as he explores the various aspects of his own self "through" women. I want to believe that there are great truths hidden in this book, but I can't. I will return to this book someday, when I'll be maturer than I am now, when I would have spent another decade at least. I think I will notice something in this book that I have missed now. There is an undertone here that whispers to me that because pleasure and pain are inseparable, and if life is absurd, why then one must not indulge and stuff one's life with a few happy hours? One reviewer from Washington Times has summed it up thus: "Life is not about sex. Sex is about life". Moreover, Vizinczey's was the most finely tuned, charming prose I have read in a long time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisabet Sarai

    This slender pseudo-memoir has been on my shelves forever. Honestly, I have no recollection as to where I acquired it, but given the copyright date (1965) and the price scribbled in ballpoint pen on the flyleaf, I suspect a used bookstore (in some country...) was involved. I'm pleased to see that it's still available, in several editions, because it's a delightful book--witty, self-deprecating, socially astute, politically informative and impressively erotic. I say "impressively" because despite This slender pseudo-memoir has been on my shelves forever. Honestly, I have no recollection as to where I acquired it, but given the copyright date (1965) and the price scribbled in ballpoint pen on the flyleaf, I suspect a used bookstore (in some country...) was involved. I'm pleased to see that it's still available, in several editions, because it's a delightful book--witty, self-deprecating, socially astute, politically informative and impressively erotic. I say "impressively" because despite its core subject matter (the seduction of women) there's little if any graphic sexual content. Nevertheless the author succeeds brilliantly in conveying the sexual yearning of his younger self (or his alter-ego), as well as the general complexities of desire. The book begins during the narrator's childhood in pre-WWII Budapest. Even as a boy, Andras is surrounded by doting older women (his widowed mother's friends) and finds himself attracted to them. After a desperate adolescence as a survivor of the war (including serving as a pimp for the occupying Allied forces), he becomes a student of literature in oppressively Communist Hungary--and a student of women. The primary lesson of the memoir is clear in the dedication: "This book is dedicated to older women and is addressed to young men--and the connection between the two is my proposition." Wonderfully literate and deliciously sexy!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    I think maybe I was expecting something more like a literary equivalent of Francois Truffaut's The Man Who Loved Women: a chronicle of obsessive skirt-chasing that starts out breezy and frivolous, but ends up as a surprisingly poignant picture of a life spent in lust. Unfortunately, this book is nothing so deep, and it's not even really that entertaining. No book of "amorous recollections" should be as lifeless and unengaging as this one. Each one of the book's series of women are rendered in su I think maybe I was expecting something more like a literary equivalent of Francois Truffaut's The Man Who Loved Women: a chronicle of obsessive skirt-chasing that starts out breezy and frivolous, but ends up as a surprisingly poignant picture of a life spent in lust. Unfortunately, this book is nothing so deep, and it's not even really that entertaining. No book of "amorous recollections" should be as lifeless and unengaging as this one. Each one of the book's series of women are rendered in surface details only, none of them leaving any lasting impressions once you've finished reading. The author has a unique narrator/setting with which to work (a Hungarian who lives through both WWII and the '56 Revolution, before immigrating to Canada to work as a professor) but, again, the writing is too rushed and simplistic to create a portrait of Andras that has more than one dimension. I think the book actually summarizes its faults, unintentionally, better than I can: "The result was like driving in a speeding car through a beautiful landscape: I had an impression of all the exciting hills and valleys, contours and colours, but I was moving too fast to be able to take a good look."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Georg

    If you like the English language, if you like sex, and if you like Hungary (no particular order here), this is your book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Troy Alexander

    I really enjoyed this book. It's the story of Andras, a Hungarian boy born just before the outbreak of WWII, and his journey from boyhood through adolescence into adulthood and how he ended up becoming a philosophy professor in America. His journey takes the form of reminiscences of his sexual encounters (some very funny), but it's never sleazy or pornographic. The most interesting thing - for me at least - was the way the book gives you insight into what it must have been like to be a horny tee I really enjoyed this book. It's the story of Andras, a Hungarian boy born just before the outbreak of WWII, and his journey from boyhood through adolescence into adulthood and how he ended up becoming a philosophy professor in America. His journey takes the form of reminiscences of his sexual encounters (some very funny), but it's never sleazy or pornographic. The most interesting thing - for me at least - was the way the book gives you insight into what it must have been like to be a horny teenager, trying to make sense of the world, while growing up in Cold War Budapest.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Thechicgeek

    In Praise of Older Women is delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed Stephen Vizincezey's charming tale and his joy and praise for women. I found myself smiling and laughing as I read along with his adventures. This is a man I would love to meet! If you're looking for a light and fun escape from the world, open and read this classic! You won't be disappointed. In Praise of Older Women is delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed Stephen Vizincezey's charming tale and his joy and praise for women. I found myself smiling and laughing as I read along with his adventures. This is a man I would love to meet! If you're looking for a light and fun escape from the world, open and read this classic! You won't be disappointed.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Karam

    More than a book about women, 'In Praise of Older Women' is about war and changing landscapes, about war and the social relationships it harbors. Underneath it all, it is the story of a boy growing up amidst the company of older women. It is different from a proustian recollection but equally potent and beautiful. I regret not having read this book sooner. Highly recommended for both sexes. More than a book about women, 'In Praise of Older Women' is about war and changing landscapes, about war and the social relationships it harbors. Underneath it all, it is the story of a boy growing up amidst the company of older women. It is different from a proustian recollection but equally potent and beautiful. I regret not having read this book sooner. Highly recommended for both sexes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Justin Rock

    I wish I would have found this book when I was 16. This journey of a young man discovering and exploring his sexuality is both humorous and tragic. Mostly, this book offers a glimpse into the human experience and struggles of relating to others sexually.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael D

    A well written bildungsroman of a Hungarian man and his troubled entrance into the sexual arena - I loved the distant gaze of the main character and his descriptions of sex, war and emotional intrigue ring totally true. Not a word wasted either - always a good thing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Philipp

    A lot of fun and the kind of book I wish I had read earlier, at, let's say, around 16? Contains immense respect and love towards humans, especially women. And it's fun! Recommended for: people who visit Reddit's redpill, so they can see what they're missing, stuck in their weird worldview. A lot of fun and the kind of book I wish I had read earlier, at, let's say, around 16? Contains immense respect and love towards humans, especially women. And it's fun! Recommended for: people who visit Reddit's redpill, so they can see what they're missing, stuck in their weird worldview.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    I read a few pages once while browsing in a bookshop. Maiden aunts, stay well clear.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Liz C

    Good read

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bastian Greshake Tzovaras

    Yet another review on a subject I'm totally biased on. With only one notable exception I've only had serious relationships with what would qualify for 'older women' in the sense of this book, so take this with the needed grain of salt. Vizinczey gives his motivation for this semi-autobiographical book right away in the introduction: “This book is addressed to young men and dedicated to older women – and the connection between the two is my proposition. I'm not an expert on sex, but I was a good Yet another review on a subject I'm totally biased on. With only one notable exception I've only had serious relationships with what would qualify for 'older women' in the sense of this book, so take this with the needed grain of salt. Vizinczey gives his motivation for this semi-autobiographical book right away in the introduction: “This book is addressed to young men and dedicated to older women – and the connection between the two is my proposition. I'm not an expert on sex, but I was a good student of the women I loved, and I'll try to recall those happy and unhappy experiences which, I believe, made a man out of me.” And I think he beautifully argues his proposition, without being to preachy about it. And it's interwoven with a great coming-of-age storyline full of humor. It's wonderful to see how people shape the book's protagonist while accompanying him from his early childhood to the end of his self-proclaimed youth. I wish I had read this book like 15 years ago instead now, as the label "young man" won't fit me by any stretch. Besides the great character progression over the book the compassion, love and respect shown to fellow human beings is just great to read and gives at least me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. So it's definitely a good read for one of those days where you need to have your faith in humanity restored. I'll just send you out with one of the many great quotes (the whole book is a goldmine for them!): I wonder, what kind of life would I have had if it hadn’t been for my mother’s tea-and-cookie parties? Perhaps it’s because of them that I’ve never thought of women as my enemies, as territories I have to conquer, but always as allies and friends - which I believe is the reason why they were friendly to me in turn

  21. 4 out of 5

    Byshoon

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book, it being a thinly disguised account of the guy shagging his way around the world. The comments regarding types of women and personality changes as age progresses are obviously anecdotal, and not generalisations. I liked that he was quite open in his approaches to women, about loving them for who they were, but not hiding behind a false pretended of being together forever and exclusive. It felt like it read very similarly to Orwell's Down and Out accounts (which I'm Thoroughly enjoyed this book, it being a thinly disguised account of the guy shagging his way around the world. The comments regarding types of women and personality changes as age progresses are obviously anecdotal, and not generalisations. I liked that he was quite open in his approaches to women, about loving them for who they were, but not hiding behind a false pretended of being together forever and exclusive. It felt like it read very similarly to Orwell's Down and Out accounts (which I'm okay with). But whereas Orwell stated he retrospectively used the experiences to train himself to write better, Vizinczey doesn't explain the sometimes obvious hole that lacks more insight. He's clearly intelligent, as he had a PHD in Philosophy, lectured throughout Europe, Canada and the US. I wish he'd included a little more of that side of his life. And a volume 2. Hints that "middle age adventures are stories for another time" were a tease, a dam tease.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kape

    This is definitely one of the best books I've read. I am only sorry that I haven't read it when I was younger as it think it would've helped me understand relationships with women much better and not make bunch of mistakes I've made as an adolescent. However, I definitely think Vizinczey's best book is An Innocent Millionaire. If you can find it (because it is out of print) - pick it up and read it... it contains so many insights and for me - it's definitely a masterpiece that can rightfully stan This is definitely one of the best books I've read. I am only sorry that I haven't read it when I was younger as it think it would've helped me understand relationships with women much better and not make bunch of mistakes I've made as an adolescent. However, I definitely think Vizinczey's best book is An Innocent Millionaire. If you can find it (because it is out of print) - pick it up and read it... it contains so many insights and for me - it's definitely a masterpiece that can rightfully stand next to "Crime and Punishment" when it comes to how much it can teach you about life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Darren Chin

    I only wished I had read it before I turned 20 but in many ways, I am glad to have read it now that I am 23, to better my understanding of the things Vizinczey has to say. The book really brings to life the ignorance of boys for that holy grail of young male existence: sex and all the roses and thorns that comes with it in pursuit of a seemingly inane act. I don't know if non-males will like it, but they'd definitely enjoy it regardless. People say its comical but I think that it is one of the m I only wished I had read it before I turned 20 but in many ways, I am glad to have read it now that I am 23, to better my understanding of the things Vizinczey has to say. The book really brings to life the ignorance of boys for that holy grail of young male existence: sex and all the roses and thorns that comes with it in pursuit of a seemingly inane act. I don't know if non-males will like it, but they'd definitely enjoy it regardless. People say its comical but I think that it is one of the most retrospectively thought-provoking book I've read in a long time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    The author is so plainly a big fat misogynist and I couldn't get into it at all. If the protagonist was an ironic character with witty stories then perhaps it would have worked but honestly the sincerity of his desperation and obsession is pretty revolting. His affairs often blur the lines of consent, or in some cases, surely breach it. I kept on reading because it was the chosen book for my book club but I would not recommend it to anyone. The author is so plainly a big fat misogynist and I couldn't get into it at all. If the protagonist was an ironic character with witty stories then perhaps it would have worked but honestly the sincerity of his desperation and obsession is pretty revolting. His affairs often blur the lines of consent, or in some cases, surely breach it. I kept on reading because it was the chosen book for my book club but I would not recommend it to anyone.

  25. 4 out of 5

    DomoKete

    Did not finish. I like reading memoirs that are "authentic". The prevalence of personally shameful events can be a good indicator. This book passes this test in the initial stages. The problem is i'm not enjoying the personality of the writer. I don't like him and I have no interest in hearing about his sexual escapades which are the entirety of the book. The writing also falls flat. The awkward, sexy and degrading are all rolled up into a single monotone. Would have likely been 2-3 stars. Did not finish. I like reading memoirs that are "authentic". The prevalence of personally shameful events can be a good indicator. This book passes this test in the initial stages. The problem is i'm not enjoying the personality of the writer. I don't like him and I have no interest in hearing about his sexual escapades which are the entirety of the book. The writing also falls flat. The awkward, sexy and degrading are all rolled up into a single monotone. Would have likely been 2-3 stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Allan

    An unusual coming of age memoir, distinctive as much as anything by its historic context of a young man growing up in the war and in post war communist Hungary. The core theme of the book is the sexual experiences of the author, gleaned mainly through his encounters or relationships with older, often married women. It’s a book that has been described, I think rather accurately, as a metaphysical exploration rather than being either erotic or explicit. It’s also a book that provides insight into An unusual coming of age memoir, distinctive as much as anything by its historic context of a young man growing up in the war and in post war communist Hungary. The core theme of the book is the sexual experiences of the author, gleaned mainly through his encounters or relationships with older, often married women. It’s a book that has been described, I think rather accurately, as a metaphysical exploration rather than being either erotic or explicit. It’s also a book that provides insight into the life of the emigre after he has fled Hungary after the 1957 uprising. There are moments of palpable embarrassment as well as happy liaison. The writing has been lauded with fulsome praise given it is from someone without English as their first language. It is fairly easy to read but I confess to finding it a bit clumsy at times. It feels like a book of its time although I have seen it touted as having things to say to the current generation- I’m not so sure about that.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Harry Collier IV

    I have been putting this review off for too long, but what can I really say about this book? It was decent and could have been amazing. I think the author never really knew quite where he wanted to take the story and therefore never had one overlying message. I could even see if it was just random moments of a life pursuing older women but he doesn't even do that in all the chapters. Parts made me smile. Parts made me envious of young men who have the opportunities to read this while still young m I have been putting this review off for too long, but what can I really say about this book? It was decent and could have been amazing. I think the author never really knew quite where he wanted to take the story and therefore never had one overlying message. I could even see if it was just random moments of a life pursuing older women but he doesn't even do that in all the chapters. Parts made me smile. Parts made me envious of young men who have the opportunities to read this while still young men. Parts made me angry because they could have been so much better if Vizinczey would have just focused and expanded the narrative to include something more.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Barrett

    A melancholy romp, for what of a better term, through a young man's shagging exploits as he turns from boy to adult. It wasn't just skin deep and I enjoyed the twin narrative of post-war Hungary and communism. At around 200 pages it was a perfect length too (ooh err). A melancholy romp, for what of a better term, through a young man's shagging exploits as he turns from boy to adult. It wasn't just skin deep and I enjoyed the twin narrative of post-war Hungary and communism. At around 200 pages it was a perfect length too (ooh err).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Buck

    I first read this as smut when I was a teenager, and was very surprised to see it again in a 'Penguin Modern Classics' cover, so I re-read it though this time as a study of Hungarian manners. I suppose it comes as no surprise that this book would be written by a Hungarian. I even have a close friend who claims that he has only had affairs with older women - it's not true, but he obviously finds the idea attractive. The fictional memoirist's, Vajda's interest in older women starts from his involv I first read this as smut when I was a teenager, and was very surprised to see it again in a 'Penguin Modern Classics' cover, so I re-read it though this time as a study of Hungarian manners. I suppose it comes as no surprise that this book would be written by a Hungarian. I even have a close friend who claims that he has only had affairs with older women - it's not true, but he obviously finds the idea attractive. The fictional memoirist's, Vajda's interest in older women starts from his involvement with his widowed mother's circle of female friends. From an Anglo-Saxon perspective mothers play a disproportionate role in the affairs of people in Hungary. And tellingly, the only time Vajda cries for a woman he has left, it is for his mother, after his flight from Hungary in 1956. What engaged me this time was the role played by the other men in the lives of these older women. For the majority of Vajda's older women there was one, but only in Anglo-Saxon Canada did he feel the need to hide his interest in their fiancées and wives. In the main part, these men had a 'best of luck to you' approach that I had some experience of here in the 1990's. At the time, I speculated that this might have some connection with Communism in a way alluded to the The Unbearable Lightness of Being. But thinking back over the Hungarian books I've read since, a relaxed approach to sexual immorality was well established here well before Communism: Gyula Krúdy made a whole ouevre out of it. But the pattern would seem to be that sexual transgression is diverting rather than dangerous. I've yet to read the Hungarian equivalent of Thomas Hardy or D. H. Lawrence. As a result there is the realisation that Vajda is some sort of sexual parasite, exploiting women whose lives and relationships have gone wrong, but not offering himself as a way of making them right. I'm just not sure that the writer sees it that way, there are observations about Hungarian history and patriotism here that seem quite sincere and serious. It's just sex that deserves this superficial, sensual approach. Vizinczey is a fine stylist, and manages to write about sex without vulgarity. One sentence I recognised from my first reading; "Paola behaved more like a considerate hostess than a lover: she raised and twisted her body so attentively that I felt like a guest for whom so much is done that he can't help knowing that he's expected to leave soon." What effect that had on my emergent sexuality, I have no idea; but the whole story of Paola is positive, where sex seems to solve problems rather than simply provide some distraction from them. However, this book would not be on my list of classics, modern or otherwise. It simply doesn't tell me anything interesting about the human condition, though I can understand why it would be popular among those looking for an angst free attitude to sexuality - teenage boys for example!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeroen

    In his memoirs, the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal spoke of Milan Kundera's oeuvre as a place "where sex ruled the world", and though he spoke lovingly, one could find in it an antagonism if not between the two great Czech writers themselves but between their styles, for if Hrabal ever writes about sex, it will be clumsy, awkward sex, more like that scene between Kafka and Frieda in The Castle than the steamy french kissing and dry-humping right in between protesters and police that happens in Kund In his memoirs, the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal spoke of Milan Kundera's oeuvre as a place "where sex ruled the world", and though he spoke lovingly, one could find in it an antagonism if not between the two great Czech writers themselves but between their styles, for if Hrabal ever writes about sex, it will be clumsy, awkward sex, more like that scene between Kafka and Frieda in The Castle than the steamy french kissing and dry-humping right in between protesters and police that happens in Kundera. Hrabal and Kundera symbolise two different ways of dealing with the repression of a totalitarian state: turning inwards and outwards. Kundera sought the confrontation, sought rebellion, and ended up leaving for greener pastures. Hrabal stayed, and had to compromise, and increasingly spent his days in a dark corner of the Golden Tiger, his favorite pub in Prague. The Hungarian-born Stephen Vizinczey somehow merges this dichotomy between the two Czechs in his classic, beautifully titled In Praise of Older Women. Vizinczey's thinly-veiled stand-in protagonist spends about half the book - maybe a bit more - chasing his own tail in Hungary, until he flips and turns from inward to outward, and leaves with a heavy heart for Italy, then Canada. His descriptions of the many women in his life are either so humorous as to be affectionate, or so affectionate as to become humorous. His thesis, that young men were better off when, as opposed to chasing young girls, an affair with an older lady was the fashionable thing to do, is actually quite an intriguing one, even though it is largely shaped by his own nostalgia, by his particular circumstance. Sex certainly rules Vizinczey's world, and though he usually shines through sensitivity, there are moments when an overdose of braggadocio wafts through the pages, such as when he chastises a couple of male bachelors on a university weekend trip for not chasing after the single ladies, speaking as if there really is nothing else to do in the world but that. There is also, though he himself seems unaware of it, the sense that Vizinczey falls in love with women for the challenge they pose: he chases after the unattainable ones and obsesses over unrequited loves. In the end, as in Kundera, this is a world ruled by sex precisely because sex represents the love in peace, love and understanding, and because that love seems to bring peace and understanding with it, or at least the hope of them. I would say that someone should do a study on the importance and the experience of sex in war time, but really I've no doubt this has been done many times over. Actually, that is pretty much what this book is: a study on the importance and the experience of sex in war time.

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