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.
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. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .