Books
by Stephen Vizinczey

In Praise of Older Women

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Reviews | Excerpt | to buy clickline

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English Language Reviews

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September, 1965
Hungarian Loves
by Kildare Dobbs, Saturday Night (Toronto)

“The Reviewer’s lot, I want you to know, is not always a happy one. Not only are there the special reviewerly hardships–the patient suffering of stale insults to one’s virility; the divided responsibility to readers and authors; the litter of unwanted books;...”

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August, 1966
by Brigid Brophy, London Magazine

“Stephen Vizinczey has created a modern, Hungarian Cherubino. By a superb incongruity (but not an unprecedented one, since da Ponte eventually reached the same continent), the author and his Cherubino have alike fetched up in Canada....”

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2 October, 1966
by Alan Forrest, Sunday Citizen

“...After reading this one, you realise that Vizinczey really knows and Henry Miller and the rest – even D. H. Lawrence – only thought they did....”

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29 November, 1966
Withdraw that ‘filthy’ book from library, says councillor
Northern Echo

“...A Middlesborough vicar has complained to the police about the novel, In Praise of Older Women....”

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14 August, 1986
Lessons That Sex Teaches
by John Podhoretz, The Washington Times (Washington DC, USA)

“... Twenty-one years later, this story of a young Hungarian’s sexual adventures with married, middle-aged women still seems like a very, very dirty book indeed....”

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23 June, 1986
Book inspires memories of love and older women
By Bill Hill, Hilton Head

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November 17, 2005
LRC unveils the 100 most important Canadian books ever written
LRC (Literary Review of Canada) (Toronto)

“Canada’s hundred most important books were unveiled by the Literary Review of Canada today at Massey College. Says LRC editor Bronwyn Drainie, “When it was suggested a few months ago that we should create such a list, it felt like a perfect fit with our commitment to books as a medium and especially to Canadian books.”...”

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French Reviews

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25 May, 2001
To Learn How to Live
by Pierre Lepape, Le Monde (France)

“András Vajda reads women the way that Vizinczey makes love with books: with the same desire to understand through pleasure, the same opening up of the mind and the heart, the same freedom, the same lucidity and passion for truth and beauty.”...

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26 December, 1986
Les Deux Faces de Stephen Vizinczey
by Jacques de Decker, Le Soir

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15 August, 2002
Un inconnu qui cartonne
by François Busnel, L'Express

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German Language Reviews

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6 October, 2004
Alle beteten Fur mich, damit ich mein Bestes gab
by Werner Spies
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt)

A book comes back. Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women is said to have reached five million readers since its first appearence forty years ago. The depiction of restless, ever-new approaches to body and soul finds an echo in the fate that has befallen the title....


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15 January, 1989
Picaresque Novel
by Bernd Lubowski
Berliner Morrgenpost (Berlin)



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25 October, 2004
Wie ich lernte, die Frauen zu lieben
by Rainer Moritz
Deutsche Rundfunk (Berlin)

“Many books need years to find their public, and even in retrospect it is sometimes difficult to denote the causes of this protracted wait for attention. So it is all the more welcome when a publisher’s persistence and desire to make discoveries lead to success and important works finally gain...”

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Italian Reviews

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26 April, 2004
Stephen Vizinczey, Elogio delle Donne Mature
by Giorgio Montefoschi, Corriere Della Serra (Italy)

“at the basis of eroticism, he places knowledge. In plain English: I love because I learn; I learn because I love….it is a catalogue quite different from Don Giovanni’s. In the latter, obsession with the female is destructive, borders on the Kingdom of the Shades; in Andràs’s catalogue, everything is living ardor, inexhaustible fervour.” by Giorgio Montefoschi, Corriere della Sera

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Spanish Language Reviews

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September 19, 2007
The Master of Active Passions
by Carles Barba, La Vanguardia (Barcelona)
(English translation of original Spanish text)

FICTION: “Thanks to their unfading freshness, readers can now enjoy two great works of Stephen Vizinczey, rediscovered by RBA...”


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5th July, 1990
Stephen Vizinczey esplendido escritor
By Juan Domingo Arguelles, Universal (Mexico City)

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29th April, 1999
SV Interviewed about In Praise Of Older Women
By José Luis Perdomo Orellana, Etcétera (Mexico City)







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7 May 2007
La bondad y la inteligencia
By Manuel De La Fuente, ABC (Madrid)



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Portuguese Language Reviews

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16 November, 1991
O Elogio da mulher madura
by Ranier Moritz
Expresso Weekly (Portugal)

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11 November, 1991
O Elogio da mulher madura
by Ana Isabel Bastos
O Independente (Portugal)

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“This book is dedicated to older women and is addressed to young men.”
-Stephen Vizinczey


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Reviews for
In Praise of Older Women

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“It's the kind of book that you can't put down: witty, moving, and it's all about sex.
Truly original." – Margaret Drabble, The Guardian (London)

Written with great lucidity and charm and packs an astonishing number of overtones
into its somewhat single minded pursuit of its theme.”
– Northrop Frye

“One of the most charming books of the century.”
– Peter Corris, The National Times (Sydney)


“Reads like Casanova's Memoirs. The reader gets lost not so much in their beds as in their souls." – Sophie Creuze, L'Écho (Brussels)

“A great classic of our time.” – Jacques de Decker, Le Soir (Brussels)

“It tells a unique story, tender, pleasant and entertaining, which conquers the reader. A delicious book, as heady as a goblet of Tokay.” – Jorge Amado


“Magnificent clarity .. . immense awareness of truth . . . What might have been pornography emerges as life.” – P. W. Lee, The Calgary Albertan

“A wild, funny, bawdy book . . . by all odds the sexiest novel ever published in this country.”
– Christina Newman, Chatelaine (Toronto)

“. . . what emerges from the story is a succinct account of the differences between immaturity and maturity; between love and lust; between fulfillment and mere indulgence in mechanical arousement . . . The writing is measured, pointed and masculine; and at the same time as pliant, whip like, clean and cutting as a rapier.”
– R. A. O'Brien, Kingston Whig-Standard

“The author describes one of the most tragic periods of European history: German occupation, then Russian occupation, the secret police, then bloody uprisings. András lives through all that. What is he to do not to appear bruised, invaded, defeated? And that is the moment when woman appears, as the only refuge, the great consolation, the dispenser of forgetting.”
– Naim Kattan, Liberté (Montreal)

“ . . not a 'frank' book. It is an obsessively honest book.”
– Paul Gottlieb, The Gazette (Montreal)

“[Vajda's mistresses] are as real as the girl in Auden's poem: Mortal, guilty, but to me / The entirely beautiful. Evoked with affection and profound insight into character, they are seen with irony, that is to say, with intelligence.”
– Kildare Dobbs, Saturday Night (Toronto) (full text review)

“Cool and distanced, and for that very reason erotic in a subtle and attractive way: it permits us to use our imagination. . . . It has a classic tone, recalling both Casanova and Stendhal.”
– Robert Fulford, Saturday Night (Toronto)

“Vizinczey has caught – absolutely – the grim pantomime that is English Canada's attitude toward sex. . . . gush of involvement afflicts anyone who reads it . . . It draws on the same kind of emotion that gives passion to Stendhal's novels. . . .”
– Michael Bawtree, The Telegram (Toronto)

“It is the ability, to sing a sweetly personal song amid the raucous maelstrom of bitter public events; to present a sexual saga as a hymn of praise rather than as a swaggering recital of self aggrandizement, that . . . lifts this book into a niche of its very own.”
– David Watmough, The Vancouver Sun

“Let us now praise Stephen V. – for writing a happy book about sex."
– Arthur Zeldin, The Varsity (University Of Toronto)

“What distinguishes the book . . . is an underlying irony, and self-mockery . . . an economy, a simplicity and directness which puts to shame the involved fake-poetical utterances of many writers . . .” – Tony Emery, Victoria Daily Times

“Even the most hopeful of Stephen Vizinczey's admirers failed to anticipate the stunningly quick success of his novel,' Robert Fulford wrote in The Toronto Daily Star, commenting on the fact that In Praise of Older Women had been a best-seller ever since its appearance – and that its popularity had coincided with critical approval. 'Reviews across Canada have been exceptionally good . . . in most cases the reviewers have been admiring and friendly – and, sometimes, downright astonished.' ' . . . a fresh breeze blowing through the thicket of tortured reminiscences which have lately been our lot. Blessed with an ability to poke fun at himself and at life around him, he writes without pretentiousness or pomposity about his adventures in areas which no other Canadian has yet had the temerity to discuss.' ” – Pierre Berton

“. . a unique book and a much-needed one . . . funny without being sick, tough without loss of charm, and always honest and frank and readable. For its appraisal of the sexuality of Canadians alone it should be read by any of us who still pretend to an interest in the subject.” – Earle Birney


“In Praise of Older Women is a minor masterpiece of serious comedy. Its treatment of sex is both honest and funny, without a trace either of post-Lawrentian portentousness or of the pornographic snigger.” – Ivon Owen


“I was suspicious of In Praise of Older Women if only because the novel became a worldwide best-seller. I was wrong. This is true eroticism, which resides in the discovery of and respect for the other person, which enriches one's knowledge of oneself.”
– Maurice Nadeau, La Quinzaine littéraire (Paris)

“It is without doubt the most incredible publishing adventure of recent years . . . In France, [In Praise of Older Women] Éloge des femmes mûres has now been riding high for eighteen months: it has practically never been off the bestseller lists, . . . And all that without any help from the press: three reviews altogether, . . . An entertaining story, a sober but irreproachable style, a message that is both anti-conformist and profound: nothing more was needed . . .”
– François Busnel, L'Express (Paris)


“Full of wisdom and irony, with a shot of heart's blood and a drop of melancholy added. A tribute to women as well as the portrait of an age which has been irrevocably lost. A book that caresses the heart and soul, without ever becoming sentimental.”
– Bernd Lubowski, Berliner Morgenpost (Berlin)

“The renunciation of girlish romance alone couldn't explain the outstanding success of this erotic Bildingsroman, which is not only a best-seller but a long-seller. Vizinczey is a powerful storyteller and a master of his adopted tongue – as we know from An Innocent Millionaire. (We owe the scathing portrayal of New York attorneys in that novel to the seven-year lawsuit the author had to wage in New York for the rights to In Praise of Older Women.) András Vajda's tenderly discreet memoirs already have all the virtues of the later novel.”
– Martin Halter, Berliner Zeitung (Berlin)

“Because of the author's strict Catholic upbringing, everything that happens has the added excitement of the forbidden . . . the exaltation that is aroused by the slightest detail of the other's body rises to a liturgical intensity.”
– Werner Spies, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“From the very beginning, In Praise of Older Women seemed to belong among the classics.”
– Günter Fischer, Münchner Stadtzeitung (Munich)

“One of the most readable, most entertaining, wisest books of world literature.”
– Arno Widmann, Perlentaucher de Kultur und Literatur (Berlin)

“This novel is so refreshing, so relaxing, so entertaining and so subtle that it has rightfully conquered a great public once again . . . This discreet writer, in the line of descent from Stendhal, incidentally settles accounts with the totalitarianisms of the 20th century, which gives the novel its scope as a work of heroic melancholy.” – Ijoma Mangold, Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)


“A masterpiece of European wisdom and humor, which needed the New World to blossom in all its lightness.” – Alberto Bevilacqua, Grazia (Milan)

“Vizinczey has written a novel which in readability, gaiety, fascination, in its power to touch and enthrall the reader, far surpasses all the indigestible volumes of experimental writing.”
– Martin Ros, Vrij Nederland (Amsterdam)

“Erotic situations, games, frustrations, naive miscalculations, humiliations, gaiety and tears of pleasure . . . Vizinczey never exaggerates, he writes with clear detachment not devoid of irony: his graceful and evocative style frees us from the fear that so often accompanies love. A little masterpiece of impeccable style, verging on the classical, sensitive, graceful and suggestive."
– Maria Dols, Ajoblanco (Barcelona)

“Eroticism combined with profundity and wit . . . Vizinczey's prose is crystal-clear and gracefully poignant and one reads the novel with a sensation of continuous hormonal delight." – Jorge Lech, Diario 16 (Madrid)

“Humor and absolute naturalness. Vizinczey's knowledge extends to all fields, including the literary one, and is reflected in the absolute efficacy of the narration, whose . . . essential humor is equivalent to the naturalness of the naked body. . . .
The novel has a dynamism which is defined by one of its own sentences: 'Haven't you heard of Einstein's theory? Pleasure turns into energy.' "
– Clara Janés, El País (Madrid)

“The charm of the sexual adventures of young András with middle-aged women arises from the joyous originality and humor with which this young man abandons himself to his experiences. In this novel of apprenticeship, the explicitness is informed not by sensationalism but by intelligence." – J. A. Ugalde, El Pais (Madrid)

“. . . a literary work of the first order." – La Gaceta

“An erotic classic of the most subtle complexity, filled with humor and wit. An invitation to the experiences of love and adventure. But it is also the portrait of someone who is familiar to us from family stories, someone whom we have all known at one time or another. No doubt the great success of the book is owing to this, but also to its style, so unaffected, so natural and at the same time so perfectly exact."
– Menene Gras Balaguer, La Vanguardia (Barcelona)

“Acquires its vigor and naturalness from an ironic, subtle and penetrating introspection and an incisive critical sense. . . . An irresistible inventory of erotic experiences that evokes the charm and intensity of an erotic tradition which has survived the nightmares of history.”
– Ulises Paramo, Revista Impacto (Mexico City)

“Splendid, marvelous . . . unlike any other novel . . . Deserves to be read and then re-read again.” – Juan-Domingo Argüelles, Universal (Mexico City)


“The author is a swift and hard-hitting storyteller who compels us to read and makes us realize that all the talk about the death of the novel is nonsense."
Swenska Dagbladet (Stockholm)

“Cool, comic, elegantly erotic, with masses of that indefinable quality, style. . . . This has the stuff of immortality." – B. A. Young, Punch (London)

“A brilliant piece of writing. Vizinczey really knows, and Henry Miller and the rest – even D H Lawrence – only thought they did."– Alan Forrest, Sunday Citizen (London)

“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 and presence and individuality." – Isabel Quigly, Sunday Telegraph (London)

“A classically refined narrative, simmering with paradox and humor. An elegant entertainment conjured out of our present chaos."
– Michael Ratcliffe, The Times (London)

“The extraordinary situation of the young András, and his combination of innocence and premature knowledge, allow Stephen Vizinczey to keep up a cutting and ironical commentary on human pretension and frailty, while giving a sharply etched picture of the disintegration of European society in the last years of the war."
The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“In Praise of Older Women has now the undisputed status of a modern erotic classic." – Harry Reid, The Herald (Glasgow)


“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

“It is a gem of subtlety and nuance about the discovery of sexuality . . . I have still not got over it. Read it!" – Danielle Laurin, Elle

“A pleasure, a brilliant first novel . . . Vizinczey writes of women with sympathy, tact and delight, and he writes about sex with more lucidity and grace than most writers ever acquire." – Larry McMurtry, Houston Post

“Love and women are so exciting and agreeable to András Vajda that he is ungrudgingly grateful and pays discriminating attention . . . András' life is not an easy one, either with the women he loves or in the track of the juggernaut of history, from World War II to the Hungarian uprising. As a social historian, Vizinczey succeeds both in suggesting the dimensions of these public catastrophes and in demonstrating their irrelevance to the hero's life . . . Extraordinary in its modesty and buoyancy, its fearlessness and persistent unemphasized sadness. It comes to the boundaries of life but only after alert and energetic explorations. . . . It is neither indignant nor compassionate. . . It is a good novel."
– Marvin Mudrick, Hudson Review (New York)

“Conveys much of the warmth and understanding that seem more common between the sheets than between the covers of novels . . . falls like an antidote into our youth-obsessed society . . . delightfully charming, richly ironic . . . a fresh breeze blowing through our libraries overloaded with neurotic works."
Library Journal (New York)

“A rarity – an erotic novel in which sexual experience is not a torment, a novel which affirms its pleasures and joys in a style that the author keeps from ever getting inflated." – Max Lerner, New York Post

“The delicious adventures of a young Casanova who appreciates maturity while acquiring it himself." – Polly Devlin, Vogue

“The entire book is permeated with a feeling of reality. . . . Every erotic episode is unique and interesting." – Day Thorpe, The Sunday Star (Washington)

“Like James Joyce . . . Vizinczey has a refreshing message to deliver: life is not about sex, sex is about life." – John Podhoretz, The Washington Times

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An Excerpt from

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To Young Men Without Lovers

“In all your amours you should prefer old women to young ones ...
because they have greater knowledge of the world.”

- Benjamin Franklin

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.

I spent my first twenty-three years in Hungary, Austria and Italy and my adventures in growing up differed considerably from the adventures of young men in the New World. Their dreams and opportunities are influenced by dissimilar amorous conventions. I am a European, they are Americans; and what makes for an even greater difference, they are young today, I was young a long time ago. Everything has changed, even the guiding myths. 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. Today young men believe in girls of their own age, convinced that they alone have anything worthwhile to offer; we tended to value continuity and tradition and sought to enrich ourselves with the wisdom and sensibility of the past.

And sex was only part of it. We came from large families and were used to getting along with people older than ourselves. When I was a small boy my grandparents, who lived on a farm near Lake Balaton, used to give a lunch party every summer attended by more than two hundred relatives. I remember marveling how many of us there were, sitting on long benches at long tables in the courtyard, between the house and the plum trees – rows and rows of aunts and uncles, cousins, in-laws, ranging from children to octogenarians. Members of such tribes knew no age barriers. We lived within a hundred miles of each other and we all loved the same songs.

The storm of war swept that courtyard clear. The Vajdas, once so close, now live on four continents. We are losing touch, like everybody else. America wasn't devastated by foreign armies, but the leafy courtyards are gone just the same. They were paved over for runways. Families fly apart, and each generation seems to belong to a different period of history. The big houses with room for grandparents, aunts and uncles are replaced by teenage hangouts, retirement homes and the quiet apartments of the middle-aged. Opportunities for young men to mingle with older women have greatly diminished. They don't have much faith in each other.

As I was lucky enough to grow up in what was still an integrated society, I have the extravagant notion that my recollections may bring about a better understanding of the truth that men and women have a great deal in common even if they were born years apart – and may thereby stimulate a broader intercourse between the generations.

As I'm going to describe my own experiences, I ought to reassure the reader that I don't intend to overwhelm him with my personal history. It is his curiosity about himself that I hope to stimulate. What follows is a highly selective memoir centered not so much on the personality of the narrator as on the universal predicaments of love. Still, to the extent that this book is an autobiography, I am conscious, like Thurber, of Benvenuto Cellini's stern dictum that a man should be at least forty years old and have accomplished something of excellence before setting down the story of his life. I don't fulfill either of these conditions. But, as Thurber says, 'Nowadays, nobody who has a typewriter pays any attention to the old master's quaint rules.'

András Vajda
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

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