“Berlin-Hamlet” by Szilárd Borbély [Why This Book Should Win]

Between the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award longlists and the unveiling of the finalists, we will be covering all thirty-five titles in the Why This Book Should Win series. Enjoy learning about all the various titles selected by the fourteen fiction and poetry judges, and I hope you find a few to purchase and read!

The entry below is by Jarrod Annis of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY.


Berlin-Hamlet by Szilárd Borbély, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary, New York Review Books)

Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Making the Shortlist: 54%

Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Winning the BTBA: 14%

This was the last collection of poetry completed by Hungarian poet Szilárd Borbély before his untimely death in 2014. Part confession, part correspondence, part phantasmagorical travelogue through scenes of collective cultural trauma, Borbély’s poetry is haunting, melancholic, and tender. These poems reach outward, involving the reader both directly and indirectly in an interior journey that jostles between memory, reflection, correspondence and time.

A sense of ending recurs throughout Berlin – Hamlet—the arrival at an end of all things, the inevitability which pervades Borbély’s poems and lives with the reader long after the book has been closed. It is a space created within the reader that Borbély refers to:

Yes, I could express it simply by saying
that our conversation left in me
a vacant space. Since then, every
day contains this space.

Borbély draws readers through his poems in an unwavering trajectory, yet when we reach the other side, we realize that it was merely a phantom hand guiding us, and we miss it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.