A novel about a black freemason in 18th century Vienna who was exhibited in a museum after his death; a book about what happens to a society when long-coveted freedom finally arrives; the wartime diary of Miklós Radnóti’s wife; a book about a family evicted from Budapest in the 1950s; and Imre Kertész's "death diary."
1. Gergely Péterfy: The Stuffed Barbarian
Hailed by critics and readers alike as the best Hungarian novel of 2014, The Stuffed Barbarian is told by the wife of Ferenc Kazinczy, the leading figure of the Hungarian-language reform of the 18th century. The novel is centered around the figure of Angelo Soliman, a black slave who rose to become a prominent member of Viennese society. An extremely erudite person and a high-ranking freemason, Soliman was skinned and stuffed after his death and exhibited in a museum. See our review here.
(Péterfy Gergely: Kitömött barbár, Kalligram)
2. György Dragomán: The Bone Fire
The third novel by the author of the internationally acclaimed The White King, Dragomán’s new book is about the struggle with the past in a society built on the ruins of a dictatorial regime. A novel about unspoken traumas, unappeasable emotions, and about people who wake up slowly after a long period of apathy, Dragomán's book shows the events from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl called Emma. As the author said in an interview, in his previous works he wrote about the absence of freedom, whereas in this novel he explores what happens when freedom finally arrives.
(Dragomán György: Máglya, Magvető)
3. Fanni Gyarmati: Diary
One of the most important books of 2014 is a volume that was originally not intended for the public. The 1200-page diary of Miklós Radnóti’s wife, written in the years between 1935 and 1946, is at the same time a document of the era, a personal account and a work of mourning. See our article here.
(Radnóti Miklósné Gyarmati Fanni: Napló 1935–1946, edited by Győző Ferencz, Jaffa)
4. Péter Esterházy: A Simple Story Comma One Hundred Pages – the Mark Version
Péter Esterházy’s book is about a family who were evicted from Budapest after 1948 as 'enemies of the state.' In those years, several hundred thousand families – aristocrats, army officers and other prominent people of the previous regime – had to leave their apartments behind and move to the countryside, often into miserable circumstances. The setting of Esterházy's novel is the village where the Budapest family has to share a house with a peasant. However, the book is primarily an inquiry into the nature of faith and prayer.
(Esterházy Péter: Egyszerű történet vessző száz oldal – a Márk-változat, Magvető)
5. Imre Kertész: The Ultimate Pub
Published two months before Kertész's 85th birthday, The Ultimate Pub is a testimony about aging, illness and a preparation for death – a "death diary," as the writer himself has called it. The book consists of diary entries and drafts of novels never written.
(Kertész Imre: A végső kocsma, Magvető)