A man coughs and looks about with disgust and hatred. There's a man in a dress smoking, he thinks, I guess. I hate myself. I'm tired of hating myself. I'm furious for being tired of hating myself. One, two, three, four, five, eight, seventeen heartbeats. – An excerpt from Incognito by Tibor Noé Kiss.
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.
If the voice strikes one at first as a bit faux-naif or affected, sentimental even, that is vastly to underestimate what Szép patently stands for.—Tim Wilkinson's literary ramble from Kertész to Joyce and Cummings via Tandori, Calderón and others a propos of a thin book of sketches from the 1920s by Ernő Szép.
"I am deadly insulted. I only look like people. This chap here who breathes in and out past my lips, he is no work of mine. I have no idea what I have to do with the whole composition. Where is my own special programme, my individual taste, my fantasy and my interest? This me? Any bellboy has the right to look like me. I have been settled. I am deeply ashamed. Me, me, me."
"Between Fiction and Reality: Dilemmas of Central European Writers" was the title of an international forum held at the Central European University in Budapest which brought together writers from six countries of the region. The aim of the event was to discuss problems and challenges common to Central European writers.
Márai’s oeuvre was shaken out of its coma after 1989, when his works were first published in Hungary, then later went on to reach international success. By leaving Hungary in 1948, he made a decision that proved to be fateful from the point of view of his oeuvre’s future in his native land; at the same time, it was a natural extension of an exile intended to be a symbolically powerful, moral reminder.
The rootedness of Borbély's poems in the literary forms of the Baroque and their religious orientation could work against their reception in the English-speaking literary world. Yet the theological stance always runs perilously close to the blasphemous, and the rigourous form is always at the point of decay.
If you are yearning for the kind of catharsis that raises gooseflesh, then read The Splendours of Death by Szilárd Borbély. Be forewarned, however, as you are about to encounter one of the most staggering volumes to appear in recent decades. In suggestive verses of hypnotic strength, the poet erects a monument to a mother: a mother who became the victim of a savage murder.
Distant from Asia, yet not in Europe. Moving away from the East towards the West, wary of the former, hopeful in the latter. (...) To the foreigner, Hungary appears a land of contradictions, a terra incognita with much that is recognizably European, but even more that remains beyond comprehension, just as an operetta bears some resemblance to real life, yet is light years distant from it.
Éva Berniczky is Transcarpathia's long-awaited, yet still very fresh-voiced story-teller. Her description of her homeland brings to mind the very best of “magical realism”; like Latin America, Transcarpathia is also a region of intersecting cultures and religions. Poised on the border of Western and Eastern Christianity, this is a world in which Ukrainians, Ruthenians and Hungarians live side by side.
Szindbad, the hauntingly charismatic, enduring traveler on journeys of the heart, may well be Krúdy’s most memorable fictional character. Kázmér Rezeda is the other major, “larger than life” figure in Krúdy’s oeuvre, appearing in six longer works, ending with the novel The Charmed Life of Kázmér Rezeda, now being translated into English by John Batki.
Oravecz records the history of the disintegration of rural culture as though he was retelling the myth of Atlantis. The Ditch of Ondrok is a three-generation story taking place in a Hungarian village, spanning from a grandfather who had fought in the liberation war of 1848 to a grandson who had emigrated to America just before the turn of the century.