A literary sensation in Hungary, György Spiró’s book is a gripping page-turner, a masterful historical epic, and a riotous road novel. Set in the tumultuous first century A.D., the novel recounts the adventures of Uri, a bookish, hapless, young Roman Jew. – Forthcoming from Restless Books.
There was a time when Hungarian music represented Hungary – everybody was familiar with the name of Bartók and Kodály –, today it is literature. But in a small country with a small language, quality literature is an endangered species, in need of special promotion.
"Either we meet death blind or we face it openly – it makes little practical difference. I prefer to face it, because this brings me a life which is more complete and, in the final balance, more joyful. You could say I am a hedonist, if you like."
In the beginning of this year, people and organizations devoted to the work of Hungarian writer/philosopher Béla Hamvas decided to use the Internet as a means of network and community building. The site HamvasBéla.org is the first product of this e-project.
Trams, streets, promenades, familiar props of the cityscape serve as unsympathetic background for the speaker’s lonely, elegiac voice; changes of all kinds, transformations of shape, movement and personality take place, almost always intimately bound up with the identity of the speaker.
"There are some who love like the hare lost on the motorway, entrapped in spotlights. / There are some who love like the lion that tears apart what it desires. / There are some who love like the pilot loves the town on which he drops his bombs. / There are some who love like the radar that directs planes in the air."
Ervin Lázár has recently celebrated his 70th birthday. Although he is best known as the author of wonderful children’s books, his Csillagmajor (The Little Town of Miracles), fifteen short tales based on the author’s experiences as a child growing up in a Hungarian village, is written for adults.
"Towards the end he kept saying / how he’s not to blame / that Imre Nagy died / or was killed / or whatever. / Murdered. / He asked: / isn’t he invited to the funeral? / And I said: no. / Because he never got notified. / And he says: / But the funeral is today! / And I say: / Yes, I know. / And then they came and took him away."
Kádár’s last utterance comprised the entire tragedy of this truly epoch-making character: a monarch, whose destiny is completed, whose life ends on the very day when the victim whom he had betrayed, Imre Nagy, is rehabilitated by the courts.
Eurozine, a network of Europe’s leading cultural journals, is an online magazine featuring texts taken from its partner journals on various pressing issues of our time, translated into English. HLO talked to editor Simon Garnett about the present, past and future of the magazine during the Budapest Book Festival.