“A Universe of Sufficient Size,” is a beautiful novel by Miriam Sved, its strongest qualities reflected in the poise of the title. This is a story about a Jewish migrant woman and her close personal friends and family. The main character is the migrant’s daughter, Illy, and the story is discovered through her eyes.
Through epistolary scenes the text provides intimate insight into the suffering of Illy’s mother and other Hungarian Jews in Budapest, as they’re driven out of the university with ritualised hostile attacks by non-Jewish classmates, including spitting and despicable violence. Sved provides powerful insights at this personal level into the risks friends take and the sacrifices they’re willing to make to help each other and themselves; the mistakes they make, the lies they tell, and the suffering and loss they endure.
Sved’s text is informed by her familial history and extensive research, and her use of maths in the novel is brilliant, although she’s said it’s not a medium in which she’s comfortable. She draws the relationships between Illy and her mother and daughter beautifully. The story moved me to tears and to laughter. It was a very poignant read.