05. 13. 2016. 11:20

Reading of Milán Füst's The Unhappy in English

The first English translation of Milán Füst's The Unhappy, a drama that revolves around the enigmatic figure of an educated iconoclast who prefers to enjoy life on the fringes of society, will be read in Budapest this Sunday.

Milán Füst (1888–1967) was a prolific and influential Hungarian writer, most famous for his novel The Story of My Wife, which is also available in English. His experiences as a dramatist were frustrating, so he wrote few plays. The few pieces he produced for the stage, though, were quite lively and often ahead of their time.

A case in point is The Unhappy. He wrote it in 1914, and soon afterwards he presented a reading of the work for a small audience of artists and friends. The praise of his peers was unanimous. Yet, everyone agreed that there was little chance of staging the play. The theme was too risqué, the topics taboo, and the tone much too dark. Theatre culture at the time was geared almost exclusively toward ″light entertainment.″

Consequently, The Unhappy was neglected and forgotten, until being ″discovered″ in the 1960s. Ever since, it has proved extremely popular with theatres and audiences. Due to its staging history and its unconventional use of everyday speech, most regard the play as a proto-modern realistic drama. Still, it also has elements of absurdity and black humor.

Place: a Hungarian city. Time: 1914. The story revolves around the enigmatic figure of Vilmos, an educated, but iconoclastic man from a poor background who prefers to enjoy life on the fringes of society. Embarrassed by his family, he does little to assist his prostitute sister and hypochondriac mother. Meanwhile, he drives his lover Rosa to despair with his infidelities, so she contrives to take his new young lover Vilma under their roof to prevent him from ″running around.″ Eventually, Vilmos’s callousness and selfishness grow to unbearable proportions, and the women in his life decide he must be stopped...

The drama was translated by Patrick Mark Mullowney, winner of the 2015 Milán Füst Foundation Grant. The reading will take place this Sunday, May 15, at 5 pm, at 9 Király Street (Dover Language Club). Entrance is free.

Tags: Milán Füst