The Rebels by Sándor Márai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rebels by Sándor Márai

Hungarian fiction

original title – A zendülők

Translator  – George Szirtes

Source – personal copy

When I was looking at the list of writers and books published in 1930 I saw this and remember I had it on my Shelves, in fact, I had read embers before I started blogging which is Sándor Márai is his better-known novel in English, I brought this to read this was his first novel. He was born into a Nobel Hungarian family. He traveled growing up spending time in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Paris. He did consider writing in German but chose to write in his native Hungarian. He wrote more than fifty books in his lifetime he has only had a fraction of his works translated into English.

For ther years Abel sat in the middle of the third row from the door. Erno was stationed behind him, Tibor to his right in the front row. That’s how they spent three years . One day at the beginning of the fourth year ABel was staring blankly ahead, bored with physics, slowly surveying the rows of other desks when his gaze settled on Tibor who had his head in his hands oblivous to evrything, absorbed, reading a book under the table. It wasn’t that Abel was particularly taken by the sight, nor was he the subject of some miraculous instantaneous illumination.

The boys at school and the gazes between them.

The rebels is set in a small Hungarian town that given that it is May 1918 is empty of male role models as we meet four boys that are just about to Graduate from School. Of course, this means that they may have to join the other missing males of the town at the front. There father range from a religious Zealot to a Colonel that expects his boy to do his duty. So these four Abel, Tibor, Bela and Erno decide they aren’t following there-fathers and brother that have gone to the front. They buy cloth to make a costume to wear and they rent a room to hideaway in. This club is their way of growing up as they try to be adult in there costumes and parading in front of one and other. There is a feeling of homoeroticism the same feeling you get in the novels of a writer like E M Forester, in fact, the growing relationship between the boys and the background of war remind me of the homoerotic undercurrent in J L Carr A month in the country as the bodies return and the try to set it aside in the club world this was like the working on the church and trying to forget the horrors of world war for the two characters in A month in the country.

The boys – this gang – in whose midst he suddenly happened to find himself, who seemed to have materialized around him, were not entirely what he would have chosen. He never dared to confess this to anyone. He was ready to sacrifice his life to the gang because the gang would have sacfificed theirs for him.The military ethos of his father had somehow percolated through to him and excerted a certain inluence. All for one and one for all.That “one” was Tibor.

There is an echo of three musketeers here with the all for one one for all !

This is an early book from this writer but he has so many more books to be translated into English. He had spent time in London in the twenties so I imagine he would read Foresters books maybe even have been aware of forester there is the same feeling of homoeroticism that he has in some of his works the sort of male friendship that all-male school or university get. He also captures the fear of the war on the youth of the day 1918 as the bodies come home the time has ticked as this is May and the have the club but then someone appears that could end the boy’s plans of being in their own world. It’s about rebelling against the expectations of society the fear of war also about discovering one’s self. an interesting second choice for the 1930 club! have you read this book?

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