Colours and Years [Színek és évek]

KAFFKA Margit



The novel Colours and Years describes the predicament of the modern woman from a different perspective. While the young women in The Ant Heap were exploring the possibilities and avenues just opening up for developing their social and female identities, this novel concerns a fty-year-old woman, Magda Porteleky. For Magda, just like for any other woman in Europe in the early 1900s, turning fty represents closure and solitude, the sense of an endgame, at best only a moment to calculate all her missed opportunities.Magda’s life story is typical of her generation; her life a succession of hasty decisions under pressure with no obvious escape route for a woman who, while full of energy, affection and commitment to her family nevertheless is incapable of opposing the constrictions of nancial and social circumstances. A belle of the ball in her youth, Magda marries early and lives a pampered and wealthy life. Yet after the suicide of her rst husband she suffers the nancial insecurity of a woman without her own career and is left with the sad options of becoming a rural postmistress or taking in lodgers, which forces her to secure herself a position in a sterile world by a second marriage. Yet, she becomes as disillusioned in her new husband as she was in the rst one as she contemplates the future of the three daughters whom she  struggled to educate, and who have the hope of leading more autonomous lives. She though is left without a remedy as she realises she has modelled her life on very limiting patterns of female behaviour.

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The following quotation illustrates the views of Magda’s supposedly enlightened stepfather on the role of women, against which Magda and her entire generation had to dene themseves:

‘The women of the species will always remain inferior; things can’t be otherwise. After all, two thirds of their life-span are occupied with unconscious animal  cares and duties that go with the maintenance of humankind, and insticts guide their intellect. If they liberate themselves from these, they become wayward mongrel gures who cannot nd their own place. Woman is a blind tool in the hands of nature. .. All the philosphers, Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Schopenhauer agree about that. Only the sick culture of today struggles to play with the idea that women should be taken seriously.’ 212