The inflatable Buddha by Andras Kepes
Original title – Tövispuszta
Translator – Bernard Adams
Andras Kepes was educate in Europe ,Latin america and the middle east as he grew up .He the wnet on to study to get a degree in aesthetics and then studied further in the US .He then he became from the 1980’s onwards a well known figure on Hungarian tv as an interviewer of figures connected with the arts world he is like a Hungarian Melvyn Bragg.He has written a number of books ,this is his first to be translated into English .
He was a great fan Isri , and his unreserved enthusiasm rubbed off on him .This particularly because even in elementary school David had done Isti’s homework for him .It didn’t bother David at all that the teacher gave him a worse mark than Isti. “Comes of being ” Jewish Isti would say patting David’s face ,and they would laugh together .
Even early on David being Jewish was noticed by his friends and what it meant to some .
The inflatable Buddha or as its Hungarian title translates as thorn bare. It follows the life of three boy growing up ,through the 20th century in Hungary ,as the back cover says an experience that has been more than others have in their entire history .So the story starts when the boys are young in the 1930’s .Pal , Isti and David form a close bond early on and then as they see the war come on as they are an upper class boy working class boy and Jews as the war appears on the scene they find there lives separate and bonds broken then after he war they drift apart but some how keep in touch eventually all arriving back in the childhood home .Meanwhile the country of their birth is tumbling through tough times we see how the events of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 affect the three now men and there young families ,the tough times after that due soviet crack down .Then how the changes after the fall of communism and the new freedoms and how they effect people .A wonderfully well crafted tale of how Hungary in its own way has been involved with most of the Major events of the 20th century and how it effect three boys that became men ,husband ,fathers they all at some point left and then returned to their home town which is own by the Baron of the village .
Isti had been to Budapest only twice before the wat and now looked in amazement at the destruction wrought on the city , the houses disembowelled ,their spines of their roofs broken and the bridges which hung crippled and wrecked , into the Danube ,it was as if he saw his own deformed leg everywhere .
The post war world needed to be rebuilt .
Well I read Parallel stories last year which thou narrative is a more complex take on Hungarian and east European history during the 20th century ,but this book has the feel of being a more personal take on the times than the Nadas book was and for me it worked better as a novel about being Hungarian during the 20th century on a personnel level rather than being viewed as a part of the whole story .The three boys are a good cross-section of Hungarian society and show how some fall ,some rise and some had to escape Hungary during the 20th century .But above all else what comes out of the book ,is the bond of friendship and how it can survive those changes no matter what .