In 1990, a man crashes his car and dies close to Iowa City. In 2013, a young man wakes up in Budapest after a bitter row with his girlfriend and takes the train to his native town in the eastern part of the country. In 1986, a patient suffering from post-polio syndrome and lying in an iron lung asks his male nurse to record him narrating his life. Gradually, the pieces of the mosaic slowly come together in this slow-paced, beautiful and poignant book, the first novel from Dénes Krusovszky, one of the most significant poets of his generation.
The protagonist of the novel, Bálint Lente is a thirty-something journalist working for the online press, an intelligent guy who is nevertheless fairly slow on the uptake when it comes to the feelings of those around him – his girlfriend, his divorced mother, or his friend from high school. It is Bálint who tries to make sense of the story as it unfolds from fragmented pieces: a tape left in an abandoned nursing home, some rumours, a few scant words uttered by Bálint’s friend.
This is a coming-of-age story about the Y-generation in Hungary, trying to find their own life and identity amid frustrated hopes, resentment of their parents’ generation, the dark shadows cast by the terrible 20th century, and the ideological and emotional chaos of the turn of the millennium. This is not only a novel about individual and collective memory, but also about personal freedom – about learning to live by coming to terms with our heritage, historical and personal, as well as with possible versions of ourselves that once looked attainable but which we will, however, never be.
“I fell in love with this book… I wish people would talk about it on the bus, in the sauna, at the university, in parliament, on the radio and on TV. Our country would be a much better place.” (Csaba Károlyi)