As has been mentioned elsewhere, the new issue of the Hungarian Quarterly is now available. (Some pieces are available online, but in most instances, there’s just a sample.)
There are quite a few interesting pieces, including an interview with Magda Szabó (whose most famous novel—The Door appears to be out-of-print on Amazon . . . Can this possibly be right?), and a “Close-Up” featuring called Doom and Gloom that begins:
I’ve often wondered what would happen were Hungary to slip off the face of the Earth from one day to the next. Would anyone care? Who’d mourn, who’d rejoice? What would the world stand to lose or gain from such an odd cataclysm?
Although it’s not really made explicit, this issue seems to have a special focus on Gyula Krudy. There’s a piece called Gyula Krúdy’s Visions of Unexpected Death, a couple short stories by him (Last Cigar at the Gray Arabian and The Journalist and Death) and a review of Ladies Day that came out from Corvina Press last year.
Krudy’s Sunflower came out from NYRB last year and was one of my favorite translations of 2007. (It actually made our Top 10 list.) The book is very strange and captivating, and definitely worth reading. Krudy’s Adventures of Sindbad is available here in the States, but that seems to be it . . . which is really unfortunate, since Ladies Day sounds so interesting and unique:
Hungary’s conflicted history—its shifting frontiers, drastic amputations of territory and population—has produced, George Szirtes suggests, a particular reaction in Hungarian writing—“an interest in the grotesque, the black joke, the magical gone wrong [my italics]”. That last thought might have been written—perhaps was written—with Gyula Krúdy’s extraordinary fictions especially in mind. Even more than Sunflower, the novel which immediately preceded it, Ladies Day, now available in John Batki’s American-English translation, is shot through with a queer magic, a disturbed energy of language, character and situation for which it’s hard to think of a parallel, in the Anglo-Saxon literatures, at least.
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .