Hungarian Literature Highlights

Hungarian Literature Highlights

Hungarian author Imre Kertész

Imre Kertész was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 2002. His first novel, Fateless (previously published as Fatelessness), was written in 1975.

Gyuri, the fourteen-year-old Hungarian Jew, gets the day off school to witness his father signing over the family timber business to the firm’s bookkeeper – his final business transaction before being sent to a labour camp. Two months after saying goodbye to his father, Gyuri finds himself assigned to a ’permanent workplace’, but within a fortnight he is unexpectedly pulled off a bus and detained without explanation. This is the start of his journey to Auschwitz.

Also by Imre Kertész, available at Libra Books: Fiasco, Dossier K, Detective Story, Liquidation


Hungarian Literature Highlights

Hungarian author Antal Szerb

Antal Szerb was born in Budapest in 1901. Though of Jewish descent, he was baptized at an early age and remained a lifelong Catholic. He was a prolific essayist and reviewer, ranging across all the major European languages. Debarred by successive Jewish laws from working in a university, he was subjected to increasing persecution, and finally murdered in a forced labour camp in 1945. Pushkin Press also publishes his novels The Pendragon Legend and Oliver VII, as well as the historical study The Queen’s Necklace and Love in a Battle and Other Stories.

Journey by Moonlight

Anxious to please his bourgeois father, Mihály has joined the family firm in Budapest. Pursued by nostalgia for his bohemian youth, he seeks escape in marriage to Erzsi, not realizing that she has chosen him as a means to her own rebellion. On their honeymoon in Italy Mihály ‘loses’ his bride at a provincial station and embarks on a chaotic and bizarre journey that leads him finally to Rome. There all the death-haunted and erotic elements of his past converge, and he, like Erzsi, has finally to choose his fate. In this deeply moving and darkly funny masterpiece, Szerb explores questions of spirituality and selfhood that probe the very nature of bourgeois civilization.


Hungarian Literature Highlights

Hungarian author Péter Esterházy

Born in 1950, Péter Esterházy is a prolific essayist and a playwright. He has earned a reputation as the most widely read and respected Hungarian novelist both at home and abroad.

In The Glance of Countess Hahn-Hahn (down the Danube), Péter Esterházy tells the story of a professional traveller, commissioned – like Marco Polo by Kublai Khan – to undertake a voyage of discovery and prepare a travelogue about the Danube. Communicating the details of his journey through terse and surreal telegrams, the Traveller weaves a rich tapestry of narratives, evoking the ethereal past and the precarious present of a disappearing world. From the Black Forest to the Black Sea, Esterházy takes the reader on a fascinating ramp down the Danube, through Vienna, Budapest, and beyond the delta where the river empties into the sea.

Also by Esterházy, available at Libra Books: The Book of Hrabal, Not Art, Helping Verbs of the Heart (bilingual edition)


Hungarian Literature Highlights

Hungarian author Péter Nádas

Péter Nádas was born in Budapest in 1942. He lived for a good part of his adolescence in an orphanage, his mother having died of cancer, and his father, a state prosecutor in the Communist regime, having committed suicide shortly after the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

A Book of Memories took him many years to write, and another five years simply getting it past censors. When it was finally published in Budapest in 1986 it caused a sensation.

Péter Nádas has given us a brilliant psychological novel that comes to terms with the ghosts, corpses and repressed nightmares of Europe’s recent past. It is made up of three narratives: the first is that of a young writer who describes his adolescence in Stalinist Hungary in the 1950s; the second is the narrator’s own fictional character; and the last that of a childhood friend of the narrator who meets him in Moscow many years after their youth. These brilliantly coloured lives, each of which casts light on the other, are interwoven to create a powerful work of tragic intensity.

Also by Péter Nádas, available at Libra Books: Parallel Stories, Love, A Lovely Tale of Photography


Hungarian Literature Highlights

Hungarian author Magda Szabó

Magda Szabó was born in 1917 in Debrecen, Hungary. She began her literary career as a poet. In the 1950s she disappeared from the publishing scene for political reasons and made her living by teaching and translating from French and English. She began writing novels, and in 1978 was awarded the Kossuth Prize, the most prestigious literary award in Hungary. Magda Szabó died in 2007.

The Door

A young writer, struggling for success, employs an elderly woman called Emerence to be her housekeeper. From their first encounter it is clear that Emerence is no ordinary maid. Although everyone in the neighbourhood knows and respects her, no one knows anything about her private life or has ever crossed her threshold. Only a great drama in the writer’s life prompts Emerence to unveil glimpses of her traumatic past – a past which sheds light on her peculiar behaviour. The Door brilliantly evokes the development of the bond between these two very different women, and the tragic ending to their relationship.


Hungarian Literature Highlights

Hungarian author István Örkény

Author of a number of documentary novels, novellas, short stories and plays (The Family Toth and Catsplay have been produced in the US and the UK), Örkény is best known for his One minute stories. Ranging anywhere from a single sentence to a couple of pages, they are the metaphors for the upside-down world that Örkény saw around him in the mid-20th century Hungary, a world where what would be grotesque elsewhere was the natural way of life, and the other way around.