04. 09. 2009. 11:47
Reports from the other shore
The new issue of The Hungarian Quarterly is out, with a section on the theory and practice of literary translation, an excerpt from Miklós Szentkuthy's novel on Haydn and lots of excellent contemporary prose.
"... few activities have contributed more to the spread of civilised ideas... Yet few comparable activities seem to have attracted so much sceptical gloom." Needless to say, Len Rix – the translator of Antal Szerb and Magda Szabó – is talking about the vocation of the translator. His article also gives us a glimpse into the secrets of the trade of an eminent translator.
Tim Wilkinson, the translator of Imre Kertész, among others, focuses on the question of literary canons and translation. Deploying some depressing statistics on how little – and what – of Hungarian literature is translated into English, he finds that British and American publishers' decisions often depend on criteria other than literary merit.
A section on Joseph Haydn (on the occasion of the bicentenary of his death) includes an excerpt from Miklós Szenkuthy's Doctor Haydn. This novel was one of the five "biographical fantasies" or "self-portraits in masquerade" by this eccentric and extraordinary writer, written between 1957 and 1967, the others being on Mozart, Goethe, Dürer and Handel.
Writer László Márton reviews books – a short-story collection, a novel and a book that can be considered as both – by three of his colleagues. Gergely Péterfy's Pit Lake, "a sociological description of a post-Communist Eastern European wasteland and a parable of the futility of the mundane affairs of this world", was a critical success in Germany, but has not been translated into English yet.
András Forgách's novel Zehuze, "a blend of epistolary novel and family saga", is made up of a continuous flow of letters sent by a Hungarian woman living in Israel to her daughter who lives in Hungary. The story spans almost thirty years, from 1947 to 1976 – an especially turbulent era for both countries.
Centauri is the name of a writer whose identity is unknown, "making this a rare case in Hungarian literary circles where the identity of the writer attracts rather more attention than it deserves and affects how books are read". His/her first collection under review, Blue Angel reveals its author as someone who has the sort of talent "that needs to devote a considerable part of what are clearly huge creative energies to curbing itself". Yet "however hazardous his creative imagination with its apparitions is, the moment it achieves artistic shape it ceases to be a temptation."
The table of contents as well as excerpts from the articles and some articles in full are available online at http://hungarianquarterly.com/no193/index.shtml.