In July 1919, Sanyi, the vegetarian butcher and devoted member of the communist party, a handsome guy who has a tattoo on his chest that reads ‘Gesamtkunstwerk,’ sets off to Vienna on a secret mission, with a suitcase full of gold. While in Vienna, he learns that the revolution had been crushed, and from then on, his activity will be considered illegal. Thus begins Sanyi’s tragicomical adventure story, full of blood and false identities, all hilariously told by Noémi Szécsi, professedly a descendant of this latter-day Monte Cristo. Eventually, Sanyi is released from prison and starts a new life, in which he tries to conceal his communist past even from his family.
Sanyi’s life story offers an introduction to 20th century Hungarian history, and especially to the history of the communist idea. A devoted communist since 1919, Sanyi is a servant and victim of any number of consecutive political regimes.
In a language that makes ample use of the clichés of various ideologies, Noémi Szécsi’s historical satire cleverly deconstructs and recomposes elements of the original Monte Cristo story. As opposed to its 19th century antecedent, the main motif of Szécsi’s novel is the imbecility of politics rather than revenge.
European Union Prize for Literature, 2009
ISBN 978 963 0799 15 7
Európa Publishing, 2014, hard cover with jacket
420 pages, 210×140 mm
Croatian, Naklada Ljevak
Albanian, Libraria Tirana Times
English excerpts available