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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Really Good Read
'My father read "In Praise of Older Women" in the late 1970''s and enjoyed it. So, when I saw it in the shops, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and to see if perspectives had changed over the years. Well from page one I was immediately taken into the world of a young mans view to life and his encounters, especially with women. As I sat outside of a cafe and...
Published on 26 Sept. 2010 by mkw

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was mostly disappointed by how quickly and easily these women were ready ...
I expected to find this book wholly flattering to the older woman as the title would lend you to believe, but as I got through each chapter I just felt more and more saddened by the sorry tale. The author occasionally littered his experiences with some detail of the era...but there's no getting away from the fact that this was just a horny boy with a penchant for the...
Published 9 months ago by Lorns


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Really Good Read, 26 Sept. 2010
This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
'My father read "In Praise of Older Women" in the late 1970''s and enjoyed it. So, when I saw it in the shops, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and to see if perspectives had changed over the years. Well from page one I was immediately taken into the world of a young mans view to life and his encounters, especially with women. As I sat outside of a cafe and read the first page I became so absorbed to the point that a waiter had to ask me if I wanted to move inside, as it was starting to rain. I looked up and indeed it was raining. With that I returned to reality. A real page turner right to the end...once again Dad was right. MKW
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sex and the Tartar Invasion, 31 Mar. 2014
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
An odd mixture of sexual adventure and a partial history of Hungary after America entered WWII and in a sketchy way stretching back into the remote past of Hungary’s military humiliations, mainly at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The sex is not explicit though there are moments of shock and though the cover is one I wouldn’t want to sit reading on a bus, one can see images unlike, but analogous to, in a certain tabloid newspaper. The contents, however, will not trouble anyone over the age of 15.

The emergence of this book caused a stir in the publishing world and it quickly became notorious, praised by people like Brigid Brophy and Anthony Burgess, and numberless European critics. As well as recounting some of his exploits as a young man – mainly trying to get women (mostly older) to go to bed with him, (not all succumb) he also gives us a stirring account of Hungary as a nation fighting against Russian occupation and his disillusionment with his country’s future is complete as he crosses the Austro-Hungarian border and finds refuge in Italy. From there he goes to Canada, finishes his degree, and takes up a post in the remote wilds of Saskatchewan.

This is well written, not prurient, except for one moment near the beginning. Given its subject matter, It is only gently erotic and shouldn’t be dismissed without seeing if it’s to your taste. It’s more interesting than you might think. Margaret Drabble says: “You cannot put it down: witty, moving and it’s all about sex, truly original.” I didn’t see much of a witty nature, but it is more than just an interesting curiosity. I liked it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top 100 books of all time, 3 May 2014
This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
If you only ever read a handful of books in your life, make Stephen Vizinczey’s In Praise of Older Women one of them. I’d certainly have it up there in my top 100. This classic bildungsroman chronicles Vizinczey’s rite of passage from pre-pubescent childhood to sexual enlightenment, through the eyes of his fictional narrator, Andras. Andras’s desperation to lose his virginity, to find the girl and fall in love, is set against the backdrop of the Second World War and the post-war communist bloc. The tale skips lightly over those momentous events, whose effects on the author we can only guess at. Stephen Vizinczey was two years old when his father was topped by the Nazis. Two decades later his uncle was whacked by the communists. Vizinczey fought in the abortive Hungarian Revolution of 1956 before being forced to flee as a refugee. Starts don’t come much tougher. After a spell in Italy Vizinczey ended up in Canada, where he gave up his job as a hack writer to publish this, his first novel, in 1965.

Andras, Vizinczey’s alter ego, plays down his harrowing childhood as though describing a series of days out in a city park. Never once does the tone descend into self-pity or get in the way of chronicling his journey from puberty to manhood. Much of his education he receives at the hands of older women, as the book’s title and dedication page suggests: “This book is addressed to young men and dedicated to older women – and the connection between the two is my proposition.” Like a Twentieth-Century Don Quixote, Andras meets each sexual rebuff, each personal humiliation, each screwed-up relationship with a philosophical shrug before riding off to tilt his lance at some other woman, a little wiser if sadder for the experience.

Each chapter of this short novel is a mini parable about the 'war' of relationships that men and women wage with each other. The strategies, the manoeuvres, the deceptions, the battles and the rapprochements. Lessons are hard learned, often repeated. Reading it felt like leafing through one’s teenage diaries in old age, wincing at every naïve, stupid thing you’d ever done or said.

As a Hungarian writing in English, Vizinczey writes with a lucidity and economy of prose that puts most native English writers to shame. For one so wise you won’t find a shred of ego in this modest little book. Only fun poked at himself, and by extension at all men and women, for the fools that love makes of us all. Vizinczey also manages to write about sex with more class than most writers acquire in a lifetime. Described as one of ‘those foreigners who handle English in a way to make a native Anglophile pale with jealousy’, Anthony Burgess once said of him, ‘he can teach the English how to write English’.

A perfect example is a scene where Andras is left frustrated after necking a girl in the Budapest University library. Andras describes the event as stirring up an ocean of longing in him, setting off a storm that causes him to masturbate at his reading table. Afterwards he reflects sadly, “Of all the children I might have had, few could have been as full of life as the one I should have fathered at that instant.” What a line.

Many of the lovers’ partings in this book trawled up the face of some girl from my own past, bringing back memories I had thought long buried. Reading it I experienced a melancholy nostalgia for lost youth, for all the loves I’d lost along the way, whose faces reappeared like pages from a fading photo album.

One of the more sobering take-outs from the novel is the idea that true love, til death us do part, is beyond most men and women. That, in fact, trying to live up to the ideal of sexual fidelity is what often causes so much unhappiness in life. When relationships break up, we label ourselves failures at love. When marriages go sour we think there’s something wrong with us. “This idea,” says Andras, late on in the book, “that you can only love one person, is the reason why most people live in confusion.” Like Andras, I wish someone had told me that thirty years ago. For much of the book the young narrator is genuinely in love with the idea of being in love. But by the end the message is clear, while a lucky few may find their soul-mate in life, most relationships will bloom and perish like passing flowers. As Andras himself put it:

“As love is an emotional glimpse of eternity, one can’t help half-believing that genuine love will last forever. When it would not, as in my case it never did, I couldn’t escape a sense of guilt about my inability to feel true and lasting emotions… In this I’m like most of my sceptical contemporaries… We think of ourselves as failures, rather than renounce our belief in the possibility of perfection. We hang on to the hope of eternal love by denying even its temporary validity. It’s less painful to think ‘I’m shallow’, ‘She’s self-centred’, ‘We couldn’t communicate’, ‘It was all just physical’, than to accept the simple fact that love is a passing sensation, for reasons beyond our control and even beyond our personalities. But who can reassure himself with his own rationalizations? No argument can fill the void of a dead feeling – that reminder of the ultimate void, our final inconstancy. We’re untrue even to life.”
This is without doubt one of the wisest books I’ve read in a long time. There’s a disarming modesty in the narrator’s voice that invests Vizinczey’s prose with a rare humanity, often lacking in flashier writers. A humanity hard won from a lifetime of being slugged on the chin by life, and whittled away at like a stick, by a succession of ill-fated relationships with women, from the flirtatious to the frigid, the prick-teaser to the femme fatale. Reading the novel was for me, as I suspect it will be for many, like looking into a mirror of our own experience. Surely the test of any great book.

Vizinczey’s gentle, wise, self-effacing humour is nowhere better personified than in the introspective reflections of Andras, which leaven this hilarious book throughout. “Later that afternoon – I’d felt it coming on for days – I came down with a severe case of self-pity. I’ve been periodically subjected to this illness ever since childhood – in fact, I never recovered from it completely, only learned to live with it. However, this time the attack was more violent than ever before.”

I feel almost embarrassed to have been ignorant of Stephen Vizinczey for most of my life. I must have devoured a trillion books over the years. It certainly feels like it. Only a slam dunk few made it through to my bookshelves today. But I also keep a special shelf, reserved for those wonderful books I’d take with me to a desert island. Old flames I never tire of meeting up with. Settling down into an armchair with one is like listening to an old friend whose conversation I never tire of, whose humour never fails, whose wisdom leaves me feeling I’ve found a ten pound note on the pavement. Discovering Vizinczey was like finding a new wine and wanting to go out and buy a whole case. I have since ordered two of Vizinczey’s other titles, An Innocent Millionaire, and Truth and Lies in Literature. I can only recommend to lovers of literature everywhere that you go out and do the same.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, 14 May 2010
This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
If you ask me, "In Praise of Older Women" is a book that every young male should read. From this perspective (and with hope I would've understood it back then) I am really sorry I haven't read it when I was younger. Simply, book is filled with wise sentences and truth about life.

Far from what one can expect after reading title and some of the reviews - this book is not about sex. It is about thoughts and experiences of a young boy as who is walking down the road of becoming a man. In this book you won't find descriptions of explicit scenes that serve no purpose other than to arouse the reader. Every sexual act in this book is a piece of a bigger puzzle - a medium intended to communicate some idea on male-female relationships.

So, if you are looking something worthwhile to read - look no further - pick up this book and join the club of people who are wondering "How come this writer is not more well known?". I am sure that in no time you'll be searching for An Innocent Millionaire and Truth & Lies in Literature cursing publishers because other works of this author are out of print and hard to find.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Set of Reminiscences, Exploring the Amorous Drive of Older Women, 24 Nov. 2011
By 
Clifford (Weymouth, Dorset, UK) - See all my reviews
The notion that older women make the most interesting and satisfying lovers is one of the most persistent in the general understanding of human relationships, and there are several reasons for believing in its veracity, particularly in cases where their partners are either virginal or barely experienced. This well-established novel explores the possible reasons in the form of an autobiographical account of the amorous progress of a young man from his early pubescence in his native Hungary during the transition from post-Nazi to Soviet occupation. The low priority of sexual mores during such times emerges as a clear influence on him. For me the book recalled the social situations described more ably by the similarly nationally occupied Czechoslovakians Skvorecky and Kundera, even though these authors eschewed the narrow focus of erotic education that dominates Vizinczey's novel. The supposed subject eventually leaves Hungary to pursue an academic career in Canada, opening a broader landscape of human relationships. The sociological backgrounds of the women who contributed to the education of the young narrator, necessarily twisted by their own, possibly atypical, experiences may well have influenced his analysis of their relationships with him, but their variety certainly adds richness to the descriptions of their needs and emotions. It's an interesting book, relatively clinical rather than erotic in its narrative style.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful read, 20 Mar. 2010
This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I really liked this book. It's basically about the young narrator's (Vajda) many and various sexual encounters with women in their thirties and forties in Hungary, Italy, and Canada. But it's so much more than that. Even though the novel is over 40 years old it's so refreshing to read a book that finds beauty on older women. "One of my chief irritations at the time was the blankness of the faces of my young girl friends," says the young Vajda of one married lover, Maya. "But Maya's face, with the fine lines of her 40 some years, expressed all the shades of her thoughts and emotions."

Vajda's many conquests are set against the various conquests of Hungary by the Austrians, Germans & Russians over the past centuries. It's as if Vizinczey is highlighting that no matter who invades Hungary human beings will continue to seek sex and love. Kingdoms and empires may come and go, promising refreshing newness - but love lives on, especially the love of older women. Especially the love of older women with their experience and history.

Recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "In Praise of Older Women" by Stephen Vicinczey, 13 April 2010
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This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This book first came out in 1965 and swept the country's younger citizens (men usually)with its humorous slant on the allure of older women It has just been re-issued in Penguin Modern Classics. It is unashamedly about sex - in particular the initiation process insofar as it affects boys on the threshold of puberty and younger men.Brilliant stuff, and, bearing in mind that the author's first language is Hungarian, written in beautiful English. A laugh a minute, with some poignant moments, a thorougly excellent and unputdownable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life laid bare, amorous rather than erotic, 6 Dec. 2011
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
While this book does feature as its central topic sex and relationships I'm unsure that I would agree with some of the blurb on the back of the book that its "All about sex". It is definitely not a work of erotic fiction like any of Anis Nin's fiction or Henry Miller's fiction.

This is in many ways a very open hearted, humane and humanist confession or "life laid bare" to the reader. As such its in many ways very disarming when you are reading it. When possibly more chauvinistic or shocking content emerges, such as the protagonist casually discussing rape with women he aimed to seduce, it seems less repugnant.

The book, as I've said, is not "all about sex", it is a lifestory and rites of passage account in many ways. The protagonist grows up in a reliigous, conservative background and his father is kiled by the Nazis, he grows up with war (much of this reminded me of Ballard's Empire of The Sun), Nazi and Communist oppression, becoming politicised and fighting the communists, despairing of armed struggle and fleeing the country, living as a refugee and then making his way to the US.

This is all quite compelling by itself and really a fine human interest story but our protagonist is clear, while all these events have shaped his destiny his greatest drive is towards living life and enjoying affairs with older women.

He describes early in the book a sort of paradoxical personal utopia which he dreams about, in which he could live simultaneously as a monk and be entertained by a harem of mature ladies.

I would recommend this book of anyone, it really is a great piece of writing which should prove interesting. It is not erotic writing properly so considered, it is milder than some popular publishing (like Kelley Armstrong or Laurel K. Hamilton). I think that female readers could find this as interesting as male readers, I would hope that male or female readers would be equally concerned about the more chauvinistic elements, like opening discussing rape as though it were not threatening to do so. For male readers this could be enlightening and resonate with their experiences, pre-adolescent battles of the sexes, virginity, frigidity (to use an outdated or outmoded term), loneliness, doomed relationships and bad choices borne of high spirits are all here.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love a little, 13 Mar. 2010
By 
Room for a View - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This "fictional" memoir exudes warmth, compassion and acute observation coupled with the cramps of adolescent fantasies and clumsy amorous encounters. To some extent the work reminded me of Casanova's memoirs where this often misunderstood philosopher proclaims his eternal love of being in love. And Vizinczey/Vajda convey a similar attitude to the delights of women, their company and position in society. No surprise that marriage is seen as stifling, infidelity liberating and the passion of the moment all consuming. I enjoyed all Vajda's affairs and his complusion to seek out any opportunity no matter how hopeless it first appeared. For me the hero is immersed in the truth of being in love and not some shallow quest for selfish indulgence and arrogant bragging. Each chapter is headed by a quote and I think the most revealing is Kierkegaard: "The dread of life, the dread of onself..." Vajda lives for love and, in so doing, conveys a profound respect for older women that trangresses the youth obssessed banality of much of Western society. It is this aspect of the novel I wish to applaud for it shows that honesty, tolerance and a benign sensitivity can overcome our innate desire for self-gratification. About time this story was labelled a classic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lierary style., 2 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: In Praise of Older Women: The amorous recollections of András Vajda (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This is writing littered with style, calm assurance and what comes across as a life of amazing chance and inocence.
Falling out of one bed and into another occurs with great regularity yet none of the partings appear to result in any kind of bitternes. If the writer and his hero could write a manual on how to achieve such amourous success it would surely be a raging best seller. 11 out of ten.
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