Oliver VII by Antal Szerb

oliver VII Antal Szerb

Oliver VII by Antal Szerb

Hungarian Fiction

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 ?



15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. SilverSeason
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 01:02:47

    Yes, I read Journey by Moonlight in translation. This is apparently his best-known novel and I wrote a post on it: http://silverseason.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/antal-szerb-journey-by-moonlight/


    • winstonsdad
      Feb 20, 2014 @ 14:23:22

      I read this last year and it fell down the review pile as i need to reread it and review it at some point he was a great writer and could wrote so much more really if he hadn’t died


  2. biblioglobal
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 04:38:27

    I have Oliver VII on my to read list. The premise sounds fascinating!


  3. Annabel (gaskella)
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 09:48:31

    Luckily I have this novel on my shelf. I love your comparison to Ripping Yarns – that was exactly what The Pendragon Legend was too, how could I have missed this comparison! 🙂


  4. Brian Joseph
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 10:46:01

    This seems like a great find Stu. The plot sounds whimsical and fun.

    So sad that the author died such a tragic death.


  5. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 11:02:02

    Sounds fab Stu – I read The Pendragon Legend after Annabel’s wonderful review, and loved it, so much so that I have sent off for Journey by Moodlight. Yes, definitely a literary Ripping Yarns!!


  6. Max Cairnduff
    Feb 20, 2014 @ 17:03:57

    Not only have I read Szerb, I’ve read this Szerb. I thought this was absolutely fantastic. It’s one of my wife’s favourite books too. There’s a review of this and The Pendragon Legend at mine – both are fantastic.


  7. Tony
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 01:40:14

    Szerb’s one I haven’t tried yet, even though Pushkin have been pushing him. Definitely time to give him a try…


  8. Trackback: That was the month that was February 2014 | Winstonsdad's Blog
  9. Emma
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 20:28:01

    I’ve read The Pendragon Legend (amazing) and I have this one on the shelf. He’s great, isn’t he?
    In France he’s publsihed by Viviane Hamy, just as Kosztolanyi.


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February 2014


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