Agota Kristof: Biography

Agota Kristof

30 okt 1935

Ágota Kristóf was a writer who was born in Hungary in 1935. She was forced to leave her home country, at the age of 21, during the soviet invasion of Hungary. She had married her history teacher from school, and by this time they had a 4 month-old baby daughter who they were forced to take into exile. Their initial plan was to flee to Vienna and then to emigrate to the United States, but they settled in neutral Switzerland instead, fearing such a long journey with a small infant. After 5 years living miserably, Kristóf left her husband and started to learn French. She was a quick study and soon became proficient enough to write poetry and fiction in her second language. All of Kristóf’s nine novels were originally published in French.

The Notebook, published in 1986, was Kristóf’s first novel and it is the one she is remembered for. It was the first book in a trilogy and deals with themes such as war, desire and loss, promiscuity, desperation and the line between fact and opinion. This novel was an international success and was translated into over 30 different languages. It was in recognition of this novel that Kristóf was awarded the European prize for French literature in 1986. She was also given the Gottfried Keller Award in 2001 and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2008.

Ágota Kristóf continued to live and write in Neuchatel, Switzerland right up until she died in July 2011, aged 76.