Kiefer, a maths teacher who lives alone and isolated in a provincial town in eastern Hungary, realizes that his life and his job are aimless and pointless. Once a talented and promising mathematician, he decided to move to this small town with his sister, a librarian, to teach in the local high school. After losing his sister and his job, Kiefer, considered a weirdo by the townspeople, decides to give up his former life and moves to a hut on the outskirts of town to complete a human experiment, conducted on himself. With harrowing accuracy, he notes down his reflections on the nature of power and on the devastation in and around him, as well as in the world at large.
The novel’s other thread involves a couple in their forties who are living through a marital crisis. Ágnes, who works as a typesetter, and her lawyer husband Zoltán, have an unhappy marriage. They have serious communication problems. While their characters are diametrically opposed, they nevertheless belong together. Ágnes moves to Zoltán’s father’s farm with their child, close to the town where Kiefer lives. The couple meet Kiefer, who is profoundly affected by this encounter.
Kiefer is a memorable character who lives a life of destitution and hopelessness but sees very clearly the social and political processes around him and in the wider world. In a way, his craziness and withdrawal from a world whose laws he is unwilling and unable to accept make more sense than the struggles of the ‘normal’ people in his milieu.
Rich in thematic motifs and narrative threads, Gábor Schein’s novel attempts to answer the question of what a person can do with their life, and what separates yet binds together people who are neighbours, but completely alienated from their own existence.
Man, first and foremost, fears for his own skin, wishing only to live in comfort, and for that reason comes to believe in violence, just as long as it is directed towards others, and even when — to his own misfortune — he himself becomes a victim. But above all, he always chooses a form of conduct he finds familiar, even if that makes him suffer.
ISBN 978 963 14 3856 7
236 pages, 3699 HUF
English excerpt available