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August 2010

Writing from Hungary

Image: Zsolt Bodoni, Merlin, 180cm x 240cm, Image Courtesy of Nicodim Gallery

This month we're touring the beguiling literary landscape of Hungary, guided by guest editor and translator extraordinaire Judith Sollosy. The comic János Háy eavesdrops on the end of an affair. Celebrated Roma writer Magda Szécsi distills the essence of Gypsy culture, while veteran Péter Esterházy shows a boy the way of the world. The great Sándor Tar dispatches a crippled man and his resentful son on a train to hell. Noémi Szécsi, winner of the Literary Prize of the European Union, tweaks a lifetime of Party loyalty. Satirist Lajos Parti Nagy confronts a huge homeless problem. Kossuth Prize winner Ervin Lázár watches a bureaucrat pledge to spread the wealth and raise the dead. Virág Erdős debuts in English with a sardonic look at charity and wealth. And playwright Mihály Kornis dramatizes self-loathing.

Elsewhere this month, France's Lewis Trondheim goes on holiday, Mongolia's B. Odgerel bird-watches, and Chile's Juan Emar visits a manic painter.

This issue was made possible by the Hungarian Cultural Center, New York.

Writing from Hungary: An Introduction

If you’re interested in what makes contemporary Hungarian literature contemporary Hungarian literature, you will have to turn to someone else. All I can say is: it’s like this and it’s like that

Lou’s Last Letter to Feri’s Wife

Don’t go telling me what you told me Christine, ‘cause I’m not buying it, the thing about Feri going to T-Mobile and having them tap the voice mail on your cell phone.

Slow Freight

He felt a laced-up boot kick his face, then another.

Oh, Those Chubby Genes

Three homeless individuals. Except they're the size of the embassy.

from “Gypsy Mandalas”

I realized early on inside my mother’s belly that I’d be born a Gypsy. The realization made me drown at least twice in the embryonic fluid

The China Doll

You want us to exhume her?” Mrs. Bűtös said, trembling.

from “Communist Monte Cristo”

The state police came for Great Granddad only in April, and just when he’d made such a nice adjustment to the people’s republic and its tattered legitimacy!

Kornél Esti’s Bicycle Or: The Structure Of The World

That rotten, stinking thief got on the bicycle carefully, respectfully, that’s great, he said, first I pick up speed, and with that, picking up speed, he took off quick as lightning

Blessed Margaret

To a guy looking like the law was after him she gave Pest, and to some other homeless sorts, she gave Buda.

The Toad Prince

Nobody is hated as much as I. Every day when I go to school, I think this will be the last.


Book Reviews

Per Petterson’s “I Curse the River of Time”

Reviewed by Mythili G. Rao

Newly diagnosed with stomach cancer, Arvid’s mother has left Norway for her hometown in Denmark, and Arvid, burdened with a host of ailments of his own, has followed her, his intentions unclear

Jean-Christophe Valtat’s “03”

Reviewed by Emma Garman

A lyric from The Smiths sums up the narrator’s attitude toward feelings: “And if the day came when I felt a natural emotion/ I’d get such a shock I’d probably lie/ in the middle of the street and die”

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