Oliver VII by Antal Szerb
Original title – VII. Olivér
Translator – Len Rix
Source personnel purchase on kindle
Antal Szerb is another writer that was rediscovered by Pushkin press .Antal Szerb was born to Jewish parents ,but was baptised into the Catholic church ,studied Hungarian German and English ,lived in France and Italy ,even spent a year in England .this book was originally issued in 1924 in Hungary as though it was a translation from English as due to his Jewish heritage it couldn’t be published in his homeland .He later was deported and died in a concentration camp in 1944 .
The situation in Alturia was as follows. Simon II, father of the present king, Oliver VII, had been an outstanding ruler, and the country had suffered in consequence ever since. He modernised the army uniform, established elementary schools, introduced telephones, public ablutions and much else besides, and all this benevolent activity had exhausted the state finances. Besides, as we all know from our geography books, the Alturian people are of a somewhat dreamy nature, fanciful and poetically inclined.
How he came to the throne .
Oliver VII is set in a fiction middle European state Alturia a small state that only exports a few products .But this country is maybe a mix of all the lazy traits of Europe nations as the people the King Oliver VII reigns over are actually the most care free and relax bunch ,also huge dreamers and the King himself is like his subjects so hatches a mad plot to pretend to stage a coup and the return at a later date he in fact overthrows himself ,then goes and travels too Italy and there falls in with a bunch of Con people who leads to whole unexpected turn of events for the King .
King Oliver entered his capital amid general rejoicing. The streets were a-flutter with flags; the Westros department store was adorned with huge portraits of Oliver and Princess Ortrud, seemingly made from entire rolls of silk and broadcloth; mothers held their children up to catch a glimpse of the happily waving King, and loyal inscriptions such as ‘King Oliver—King of our Hearts’, and ‘We cannot live without Oliver. Long live the Great Triumphal Return!’ were daubed on walls.
When Oliver VII finally returns to Alturia .
Now this book is what I love about Pushkin in a shell ,had they not found and brought Szerb to English readers we would missed this central European lterary Gem .The book is part farce ,part satire .But also maybe a huge comment on what matter as the people of Alturia are poor but happy .There is also a sense of maybe the Europe describe in the book at the time Szerb was writing the book of course mid world war two the idyllic scenes and lives he imagined of the king and his subjects was dying out .I also felt this remind me of the humour of Palin and co in their ripping yarns it has that feel of being just left of real almost believe so yes a tale of a king wanting time of and finding the perfect plan by doing a imagine over throw ,also the american film wag the dog tackled a similar concept in a modern setting instead of a coup using an imagine war .Another book that shows me what is great about small publishers and also translation ,because yes there are many stoners out there, but on the other hands there is loads of Szerb awaiting discovery to use English readers still .
Have you read Szerb ?