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.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .