Attila Bartis’ Tranquility was published in English in October 2008 by Archipelago Books. The novel, which figures on the long list of the Best Translated Book of the Year award, is narrated by the writer son of a once celebrated, elderly actress, who had gone mad and has refused to leave her apartment for fifteen years.
"From between the creases of fabric / gapes / a face, like the countenance of Europe scorned. / It spits / into the distance, but does not speak. It reflects, / like thought itself. Above, the floodlit city / looks to a new epoch. The escalator / rises into the heights, and creates correspondences, / like a metaphor degraded in the course of time / into a simile. The mind listens."
The first volume of poet Szilárd Borbély to appear in English, Berlin-Hamlet, has just been issued by the Prague publishing house Agite-Fra, in the translation of Ottilie Mulzet, who also contributed an essay that we reproduce here in a shortened form.
The Best Translated Book of the Year award was started last year in reaction to the lack of international titles on "best of the year" lists. The longlist of this year’s award, announced yesterday, includes three Hungarian titles.
A volume of poems in English by George Gömöri, a Hungarian poet and essayist living in London, was launched in Darwin College, Cambridge on November 23 and in the Hungarian Cultural Centre, London on November 25. The poems were translated by the author and Clive Wilmer and published by Shoestring Press, Nottingham.
"...the most peculiar thing of all, they established, was what they hadn’t even noticed until now, yet it was the very strangest of all: that this illustrious creative figure of the present day, always active, was here, where everyone was at work, perfectly and totally idle."
A linguist gets on the wrong plane and ends up in a foreign place where he finds himself surrounded by an utterly foreign world with obscure laws, a geographic location that must be kept a secret, and inhabitants whose indifference to all of this is utterly appalling. – A 1970 masterpiece by Ferenc Karinthy, translated into English for the first time.
"We are in hell. And now comes the intrigue. I try to rummage through the souls, I try my best, straining; I want to understand them but it doesn’t work. They are strangers. Already, everyone has disappeared, the stains are gone, the main actors are nowhere to be seen, and if I were to take a photograph of the crime scene, it would reveal nothing of what had happened there. Did anything actually happen?"
What of the remnants of Eastern culture in the East itself? This is the question that prompted Krasznahorkai’s writing of Destruction and Sorrow beneath the Heavens, which the author himself in one interview termed a “literary reportage” – not quite a novel, but something more than a travel diary.
"As the pigeon-in-underwear – which is what I had called him – came closer, I stooped down to get a better look. And indeed, between its legs there really was some kind of filmy material, which, when the bird was in flight, hung down from the chafed leg. I waited motionless for the pigeon to come closer: the material was a hairnet."
Just as the author oscillates from his beloved cities, Budapest and Berlin, to the city of his imagination, Kandor, and then back again to a stone cottage located on a windswept plateau, his works also swing from literary prose to nouveau roman, only to return once more to essays and sociological observations.