A poet’s memoir of his mother that flows backwards through time, and excavates a shard of European history – a deeply honest, tender and yet unsentimental autobiographical journey.When you run the film backwards the figure in the pool emerges and lands neatly back on the diving board while the water beneath her heals. So, if we run life backwards, we move from its the end to its very beginning.In July 1975, George Szirtes’ mother, Magda, died in an ambulance, on her way to hospital after attempting to take her own life. She was fifty-one years old. This memoir is an attempt to make sense of what came before, to re-construct who Magda Szirtes really was. The Photographer at Sixteen moves from her death, spooling backwards through her years as a mother, through sickness and exile in England, the family’s flight from Hungary in 1956, her time in two concentration camps, her girlhood as an ambitious photographer and her vanished family in Transylvania.The woman who emerges, fleetingly, fragmentarily – with her absolutism, her contradictions, her beauty – is utterly captivating. What were the terrors and obsessions that drove her? The Photographer at Sixteen reveals a life that is at Magda Szirtes from the depths of the end to the comparable safety of the photographer’s studio where she first appears as a small child. It is a book born of curiosity, guilt and love.