Fever at Dawn by Peter Gardos

Fever at Dawn

Fever at Dawn By Peter Gardos

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Hajnaliláz

Translator -Elizabeth Szász

Source – review copy

I was sent this very early this year its publishers have sent a lot of review copies out for a debut novel by the Hungarian film director Peter Gardos. He has directed a huge number of films since the early 1970’s . This book is also a film I will include the trailer for the film at the end of this review as I found it very touching. The book came about when Gardos father   passed away and he discovered a box of letters from when they first met shortly before he was born. That he was given to him by his mother these hadn’t been read since 1946.

Dear Nora, Dear Eresbet, Dear Lilli, Dear Zsuzsa, Dear Sara, Dear Serena, Dear Agnes, Dear Giza , Dear Baba, Dear Katalin, Dear Judit, Dear Gabriella…..

You are probably used to strangers chatting you up when you speak Hungarian, for no better reason than they are Hungarian too. We men can be so bad-mannered. For example, I addressed you by your first name on pretext that we grew up in the same town. I don’t know whether you already know me from Debrecen. Until my homeland ordered me to “Volunteer” for forced labour, I worked for the independent newspaper, and my father owned a bookshop in Gambrinus Court?

Excuse me for writing in pencil. but I’m confined to bed for a few days on doctor’s orders, and we’re not allowed to use ink in bed

Miklos letter to the 117 woman from his hometown in refugee camps in Sweden .

Miklos has ended up in Sweden in the chaos that followed the end of the second world war having been liberated from Belsen , he has ended up at a refugee camp. But he hasn’t a bright future he has been told he has just six months left in this world so this crafty chap gets someone to get a list of all the woman in Sweden from his home town in Hungary. The list ends up with 117 names so he spends time writing a handwritten letter to each of them. HE sends them out not knowing what will happen . He gets a reply from Lili  a woman touched by his letter but also a daydreamer so what happens is a love in letters as the two start to write to one another in the chaos of the post war years this shining light of a love blossoming that slowly drags the half dead Miklos to life and away from death.As both have wounds from Belsen to recover from the strength of the love built-in words show the power of words to sooth the soul.

Dear Miklos,

I’m unlikely to be the person you were thinking of, because, Though I was born in Debrecen, I lived in Budapest from the age of one. Nonetheless, I’ve thought a lot about you. Your friendly letter was so comforting that I would be happy for you to write again.

That was a half truth pf course. Confined to bed with a strange new illness, out of fear, by way of escape or just to stave off boredom, Lili allowed herself to daydream

Touched by his letter and to break her own Boredom Lili writes back and the story starts off ..

What is not to like in this well I am a romantic and I love stories like these. I love that Peter found his fathers and mothers letters and worked them into this book. I just love the sheer chance of the story a Hungarian man and woman fall in love in the utter chaos of post war europe in Sweden one dying the other looking for a way to live both wanting a new future and all this story told by their own son sixty years later. It is one of those true stories that almost seem unreal. The two characters stories draw you in the lament for their past that they know after Belsen will never be there again the city the grew up in is for ever changed.This is one of those books I’m sure people will talk about a lot about this book for a book club as it touches your soul if like me you are romantic and believe in love conquering all .Here is the trailer I love this trailer .

 

 

Seiobo there below by László Krasznahorkai

Seiobo there below by  László Krasznahorkai

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Seiobo járt odalent

Translator – Ottilie Mulzet

Source personal copy

Just a perfect day
Drink Sangria in the park
And then later
When it gets dark, we go home

Just a perfect day
Feed animals in the zoo
Then later
A movie, too, and then home

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

I choose perfect day by Lou Reed as it mix part of what is in this book there isn’t a perfect day and this wasn’t one but seemed it .

I wonder if I am the only one that tends to go the other way in times of trouble and read the tougher books to read when in times of trouble . So I found myself picking up my second novel to read by Krasznahorkai , the other week of course I had been remind I has it when he won the recent man booker international award .Krasznahorkai is best known for Satantango which is the other book by him I have read . He has since the fall of the soviet bloc traveled the world hence this novel which is written 20 plus years after Satantango  is set mainly in japan but also in various places and times . He has spent the last decade in both Japan and China .

Everything around it moves , as if just this one time and one time only , as if the message of Heraclitus has arrived here though some deep current , from a distance of an entire universe in spite of all the senseless obstacles , because the water moves .

The opening lines .

 

The premise of Seiobo there below is the Japanese goddess once every 3000 years has a peach tree in her garden that bares fruit and this fruit gives who ever eats it immortality . Now she decides to search for perfection on the earth thus setting up the sequences of stories that follow in the book as we see her follow various artist actors and such .Trying to find what is perfection but is perfection what it seems , is that great actor the face every one sees when he acts , or is he different behind the scenes ? How do you get the perfect colour for that picture .What makes great art and is their great art with great artist , do great artist make great art .Each story leads some how in some way to the next as we follow Seiobo on her quest .

Well as you see as ever something seems to escape me in Krasznahorkai  writing  but l, I can put my finger on it here for me as a reader it is time . This is like me being given Boy and Actung baby  by u2  or even Tender prey and push the sky away by Nick cave . Now these are all great records but can you list to Boy then actung baby ? it is like I have broken the sequence as with this book which chapters follow the Fibonacci sequence maybe I have jumped in my reading of him from boy to actung baby and am feeling a bit disjointed .I mentioned Nick Cave as to parapharse him when he was speaking to Blixa Bargeld in the documentary 20000 day on earth he wish he had learned to edit at an earlier age , but why to me Satantango is Krasznahorkai Tender prey rough uncut and totally addictive , but for me I feel I have to read the other books by him in english and at a later date return to this one to fully get the sense of this as a book .As for now I was reminded of the film pi by Darren Aronfsky , which sees a young mathematician driven to madness by the search for perfection in maths like that Seiobo search for the perfect person to receive the peach is actually a flawed one art is in the eye , the moment , the time , the subject and can be perfect for only a split second .So i will return with a longer review after I have in a few years read his other books as I get hold of them in english .

Do you like jumping about  in a writers life ?

The notebook by Agota Kristof

notebook

The Notebook by Agota Kristof

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Le grand Cahier

Translator – Alan Sheridan

Source – Personnel copy

 

 

 

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” 

Source  Nelson Mandela 

 

Well I’m back after a couple of weeks and have decide to start with one of those books we al have read and the second we put it down would happily read it again a real breath taking novel .Agota Kristof is a writer a bit like this blog that covered Europe in her life itself .She came from Hungary ,but escaped just to become an exile in the 1950’s in Switzerland .She start to write in french at the age of 51 after studying french ,this book came out in 1986 originally .It won the Austrian lit prize as I say a write like this blog that in her life spent time all round Europe .The notebook (or grand notebook in french although that means slightly more in the french ) was the first of what became a trilogy of novels the other two are called The proof and The third lie .

We call her grandmother

People call her the witch ,She calls us “sons of bitch ” .Grandmother is small thin .She has a black shawl on her head .Her clothes are dark grey ,she wear old army shoes ,When it’s fine ,she walks barefoot .Her face is covered in wrinkles ,brown spots and warts with hair growing out of them .She has no teeth left ,at least none that can be seen

Their first impression of the grandmother isn’t great .

The notebook is the story of two children Twin brothers  ,who just before the outbreak of world war two are left in a small village with the Grandmother .Now this book is their account of this time from the war to the Soviets taking over after the war .We see the world through their eyes but also the cruellness  of this world .The grandmother isn’t bother about them and takes the money their parents send for herself .Now this village has a wonderful collection of oddball character a cobbler that helps them out because he hates the Witch as their grandmother is known within the village ,A sad girl with a horrific harelip ,who just wants to be loved but finds it in all the wrong places especially in one eye-opening scene in the book ,An officer that very cruely treats the twins .The booys quickly learn that to get what they want and to survive the shifting worlkd they are caught in as we see what we may assume is Hungary (we aren’t actually told ) but could be anyone of half-dozen countries that are caught first by the Germans and then as the war is ending the Soviets overrun the country and bring the communist system in .

We put on dirty ,torn clothes ,take off our shoes ,dirty our faces and hands .We go out into the street ,we stop and wait .

When a foreign officer comes by ,we raise our right hands to salute him and hold out our left hands.usually the officer walks on without seeing us ,without looking at us .

They beg from the Armies in the village as they pass by as they get so little from their grandmother .

Now the beauty of this book is the voice of the two brothers ,it just comes across as such a real childlike voice ,it is hard to capture how children speak and think probably for me Andres Neuman recently caught it well in talking to ourselves  ,like that book this is about how the kids see their world ,we as the reader naturally fill in the blanks between Kristof words .She shows the brutal nature of war through a child’s eyes so time and place even at times which army it is are missed just that the war is happening .Kristof also capture in the Harelipped girls story a broken person scrapping by in the world as the boys try to get to know her by first learning this girl’s horrific way of finding love .This is the second book by CB editions I have read this year and they are a publisher I will be looking closer at the back catalogue to find if they have anymore gems their . My first entry for women in translation month 

Have you read this book ?

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 ?

 

 

The inflatable Buddha by Andras Kepes

Kepes The Inflatable Buddah_coverW

The inflatable Buddha by Andras Kepes

Hungarian fiction

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 .

They were counted by Miklós Bánffy

they were counted

They were counted by Miklós Bánffy

Hungraian fiction

Orginal Title – Megszámláltattál

Translator – Patrick Thursfield and Katalin Bánffy-Jelen

Source – Review copy

Miklós Bánffy was in his lifetime  a diplomat , MP and even foreign minister of Hungary ,at this time he signed treaties and brought Hungary into the league of nations .He published this book the first of his famous Transylvanian trilogy in the 1930’s  oh and he also designed sets and costumes and was a graphic artist .He had one daughter as well .It is her that is the co translator of this book

Though Balint realized that he would see Adrienne that evening the thought had little effect on him .It caused neither joy nor that slight irritation he had felt previously when he thought of her marriage .

early on we meet Balint and Adrienne

They were counted is set in the noble families of the Austro-Hungarian .We meet to Cousins both Counts Balint and Laszlo .Through these two we see the decline of the world around them the world war is not upon them but the early seeds of this are blowing in the wind Balint is drawn to the struggling peasants from Romanian and starts to champion the rights of the poor ,whilst his other cousin is drawn into the world of the upper class gents of the time gambling at the gaming tables .This is 1906 and the world around them is speeding up .All this set in the grand house and shooting parties of the upper class of the time .The family castle as we see Balint and Adrienne twist and turn round each other .This book fits his career as a set designer you feel he draws the world around these two in the book and we’ll get to see what happens in the following volumes .

Laszlo had taken his cousins Balint’s advice to heart .While they had been together in Vasarhely , and in the train until they had seprated at Marcos-Ludas , Balint had tried hard to make Laszlo understand the problems he would have to face now that he had chosen musci as a career , problems that would never be solved  unless Laszlo contrived to be freed of his debits .#

The cousins have their own problems Laszlo is money .

Well I kept the description brief this is a huge book and too much for a review .I was reminded of so much I ve seen before from the other side yes this is like the first series of Dowton Abbey the one before the war these cousin are like an Austro Hungarian version of the cast there is even an on/off love affair at their ancestral castle home  .I was also reminded of the film shooting party that follows an English shooting part just on the eve of world war one maybe a bit after this book is set but you get the same feel of a world in the background in flux .This book was lost til rediscovered after the fall of communism and is one of those books you’ve seen and maybe even heard of but I say you should pick it up I really can’t what to see what happens in this world in part two how does the cousins world turn out will the gambler Laszlo come a cropper ,will the socially mind Balint stay so ?There is numerous names mentioned on the cover Tolstoy ,Proust being two I ve seen in connection to this book .I felt his echoes in books b modern Hungarian writers the scope of vision remind me of Nadas ,The upper class world is also like Waugh’s world at times the manners and customs also different at times show how much these worlds had in come before they went to war on either side during world war one .

Satantango by László Krasznahorkai

Satantango

Satantango by László Krasznahorkai

Hungarian fiction

Original title Sátántangó

Translator – George Szirtes

Source -review copy

Well after a year of going how am I going do this wonderful book Justice and a rereading (which is rare for me ) .I feel with it being named on this year’s IFFP longlist I am finally able to review it .So László Krasznahorkai is probably alongside his fellow Hungarian write Peter Nadas the best know Hungarian writer .He studied Hungarian literature and Language at university and after he qualified he became a writer straight away .Satantango although his third novel to appear in English was actually his debut novel .The book was also made into a seven hour film by the well-known director Béla Tarr nine years after the book came out in 1985 .I did watch the film many years ago but remember it being slow and very tough to follow at point but the main feel was the feeling of an Isolate community in flux due to one man .

” I beg your pardon ,I didn’t get that ” .”Your Name!” “Irimias” His answer rings out ,as if he were proud of it .The captain puts a cigarette in the side of his mouth ,lights it with a clumsy movement ,throws the burning match into the ashtray and puts it out with the matchbox .”I see ,so you only have one name ” Irimias nods cheerfully “doesn’t everyone ?”

The first encounter with Irimias

So Satantango the novel its self is the story of a remote farming community working on a dying collective farm .The people who are there are drinking to forget and have a wholly bleak outlook on life .The book builds a glimpse of there lives when this man /devil arrives Irimias and his friend servant sidekick Petrina .Now when these two enter its starts a chain of events that seize the village and the people there in change greatly ,outburst of violence and revenge ,some horrific scenes to what is a bleak dark grey world already .Is he the devil well the is some feeling he has gone from the village and returned ,but has he change has the village change ,has the way he has changed set the village of the way it has ?

Quietly ,continually ,the rain fell and the inconsolable wind that died then was forever resurrected ruffled the still surfaces of the puddles so lightly it failed to disturbed the delicate dead skin that had covered them during the night so instead of recovering the previous days tired glitter they increasingly and remorselessly absorb the light that swam slowly from the east .

This place is so bleakly describe by Krasznahorkai

Well that is enough about the story it hard to describe without spoiling the book and the fact there is so much I could quite easily write a thousand words on the story but then it be spoiler filled .So where does this book fit in the grand scene of things ? Well it is easy to draw comparisons to feel central European figures writing at the same time or just before Krasznahorkai people such as Thomas Bernhard ,Peter Nadas ,Milan Kundera and Witold Gombrowicz it falls nicely in with them style wise it is what is described as modernist the book drifts from the observed ,to the imagine and back .Of course the bleak setting and over all feel of despair brings to mind Beckett for some review’s I’ve read .But for me I felt this book had a lot of central European mythology ,that has been brought to the modern age and also what makes myths, a man who may or not lived some where returns things happen ,this is what start the witch hunts of the past the return stranger ,a figure , a being ,even animals that have thus cause chaos ,in isolate communities strangers or people who have appear to change because they have been to the outside world are always the catalyst for change so here Irimias is that catalyst or as they have been called the bogeyman ,the devil or the many names that have appear in European mythology over the centuries .The book is also a hard-hitting polemic in the reason why collective farming in communism had failed the despair and hopelessness of the characters is there to see on the page .Although written nearly thirty years ago this book is still as fresh today as the day it was written in fact I would say its influence can be seen in other books particularly the book I read last year Hansens Children another book more recent about the fall of a remote community during communism .A tango with the devil indeed rather like the book that build from chapters up then down you be left breathless wanting more and thinking for the rest of your life about what happen in this book .

Have you read this book ?

 

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

Darkness at noon by Artur Koestler

Hungarian fiction

Translated by Daphne Hardy

I ve held off on read Koestler for a number of years never quite sure why but recently saw a old penguin modern classic and thought it was about time I read it ,this book  is his most famous .It was on the Modern library’s hundred best english language books ( strange it is a translation ).Arthur Koestler was born in Hungary in the early years of the twentieth century into a Jewish family he lived all over the world in Palestine ,Paris and Berlin then in mid thirties he went to Soviet russia for five years to report on the country this was a the hit of the Stalin show trails and the great purge  and spent time in Spain in the Spanish civil war .On the outbreak of war he was caught in france but eventually made it to England .Shortly after arriving  ub the uk  he wrote this book which is considered his best work  first published in 1940 .

“Put that gun away ,comrade 2 said Rubashov to him .”what do you want with me anyhow ?”

“you hear you are arrested ” said the boy “put your clothes on and don’t make a fuss “.

“Have you got a warrant ?” asked Rubashov

How it all started .

Now darkness at noon is a dark ,dark book it is really an insight into totalitarian regime through the eyes of a little man caught in a party machine ,although when it was written it seems Koestler’s time spent  in both in spain and Russia inspired the book . (He had a lucky escape in spain when he was still a communist and he  got caught in Franco’s camp but avoided being put to death.)The book is one mans story Nicholas Rubashov ,this man is in late fifties and really comes across as an everyman ,in looking up on the book Koestler Said he made him out of a large number of Soviet prisoners of the time .Any way he is arrested suddenly by some men and but in a cell by him self ,the other people we meet along the way are people in the same part of the prison a cell mate called 402 they communicate via taps ,a old ,old man who has spent more than twenty years in solitary confinement  he calls Rip Van Winkle .We follow him as he has four hearing this loyal man who has risked his life on many occasions for the party (it is never called the communist party ) and thus not placing the book in russia as we are never told where the trails are taking place .It is Obvious the madness of the trails there are four in all this makes up the parts of the book  as they unfold  they are a direct reflection of Stalin’s show trails in the thirties. But in the years since , how many times have we seen dictators run trails with no reasons and people arbitrarily killed for no real reason .This book still rings true seventy years after it came out .

“Asked whether he pleaded guilty ,the accused Rubashov answered “yes” in a clear voice .To a further question of the public prosecutor as to whether the accused has acted as an agent of the counter-revolution ,he again answered “yes” in a lower voice ….

The broken man near the end not the man from the early quote .

This Book is a true modern classic and all I can say if you’ve not read it yet , you should you can see its  standing  in  twentieth century writing .A s a child of Kafka obviously this is a more realistic take of what Kafka did with the character  K in his book   The trail and you can see its influence on Orwell in particular 1948 and works by Solzhenitsyn like the gulag archipelago and one day in the life both have the similar anti-Soviet feel .also the recent book by Elias Khoury Yalo has elements owing to this book the dark brutalness of men being broken by the regime . Daphne Hardy the translator  was Koestlers lover at the time she worked with him on this translation from German and gave  the book it’s  English title, the original title  in german meant solar eclipse .But I feel the English title has so much more meaning than the  German one as in the cells there is no real light at times so darkness at noon fits to me .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite book set in a prison ?

Parallel stories by Peter Nadas

Parallel stories by Peter Nadas

Hungarian fiction

Translator Imre Goldstein

When I was asked earlier in the year to review Parallel stories I said yes, no problem and when it fell on the doorstep all 1100 plus pages of this modern epic I thought have I made a mistake ,but no I decide to set aside a couple of weeks to work my way through this modern masterpiece ,I finished it a few weeks ago but struggled with how to review it how to pay justice to Nadas vision and scope this book is deep and so multi layered it is hard to sum up with out drifting of into the individual and multiple story lines in this book so I then had to think of a different way of conveying the book and then it struck me the other day when I said in my thoughts how do you cover a master piece then it hit me describe the book as thou it was a piece of art using loose ideas and AI d be able to catch the spirit of the book .

Scene –

Well Nadas has sat down and drawn time from the centre point this is 1956 and 1961 two turning points in Hungary’s modern history in the context of this book the first the revolution that the russians so violently crushed ,the other is set in the bathhouse in Budapest where the three main characters that feature in the book talk about the city all have shady pasts and form the main body of the book .Nadas expands the lines out to recent history be it in Hungary or Germany and back to pre world war two and how this effect the Hungary on the fifties and sixties in this way showing how the events that happened in these two years happened and how the affected the future like a newtons cradle as what happened in 38 or 44 having a knock on effect via these two years to the modern world .

 

Sketches-

the sketches are the outlines of the three main characters there are a number of others but the three main ones are Hans von Wolkstein his mother was german and had a dark link to the Nazis regime in the war ,Agost from a connected Hungarian family his father served in a number of posts for different governments in Hungary and the last and maybe the darkest character is Andras Rott he is a spy and has very dark ideas .Like a spider’s web these three characters connect to most if not all of the people involved in the stories whether it is there parents stories or the lovers or lovers families all the little vignettes that make the most part of parallel stories connect to the three main stars of the narrative .

For a moment she thought Agost has gone mad .That he’d really lost his mind …..

and she would have loved tp love – no, worship his ankles ,his wrists hi every part ,his cock and every little bone in his body ,even impalpable things like the curve of the arches of his feet ,she adored him .

Agost future with about him .

 

Style

Well this is a post modern book and like a classic post modern art the rule book of writing has been thrown out ,we drift from crime ,through highly erotic prose and into political drama oh and if you want any indication as to when people are talking forget it Nadas isn’t a fan of quotation marks but it is no harder than Ulysses in that regard .This book is like a collage of different styles that may on the surface seem chaotic , but as you work your way through they all seem to drop into place and in some ways the jarring styles works and yes it jumps from sex to the political but hey doesn’t real life a lot of the time ?

Subject

well when I first thought of the way to describe the book like art ,two things came to mind and that was Goya’s spanish french war pieces those horrific torture sketches and the art of Francis bacon ,like bacon Nadas takes the formal eastern european history especially hungarian history , which is the frame of the book like Bacon used the pope image or the crucifix but like Bacon Nadas has taken a personal view of these matters and yes here it is sex, sex and even more sex .This book is littered with sex ,good ,bad and downright vile sex but this is the flip people with no real freedom they find freedom in sex so that is what Nadas describes the end of book one is a novella length chapter that follows one grandiose act of sex between Agost and his future wife .So like the bacon at first you are a little scarred of the images but you then look beyond the picture to the painter and the same is said of Parallel stories Nadas describes the act of sex so well in places he must have had some practice whilst writing the book also the lexicon of rude parts is used to the max her bodily parts are described and over described at times .The connection to the Goya is politics how it plays a part war and conflict, from the nazi regime and the aftermath of that to communism and its faults .The Budapest revolution and lost freedom but how that one event affect the three main characters .

His black shirt and black pants ,wet with other mens urine and filthy with their sperm ,stuck to his back ,chest ,bottom and thighs they clung to him ,adhered to him like a skin ,white-hot with shame .

a scene from book two to give you an idea of the sex content of the book .

 

 

The final painting –

Well Parallel stories isn’t going to be to every ones taste to say the least it is not an easy read it needs time having read 2666 and Don Quixote in the last couple of years does it stack up against them yes long books tend to drift and diverge and this does maybe more than 2666 but not as much as Don Quixote .Is it gonna stand the test of time yes in my opinion it seems to lift the veils on the personnel lives of post war eastern Europeans more than any other book I ve read has this takes you in the bedroom even into the toilet more than you may want to know but sometimes you need a little uncomfortable in your reading not everything is comfortable in the world and nadas reminds you of this time and time again .It took Nadas eighteen years to write this book and Imre Goldstein a further five to translate her work on this book has made it accessible to the English reader Hungarian is a very hard language to translate from and she has done a sterling job here ,this is a strong IFFP contender and helps Nadas Nobel claims even more .

Have you a favourite Hungarian writer ?

Do you like post modern fiction ?

August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  
%d bloggers like this: