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KRISZTINA TÓTH: White Wolf

Tóth Krisztina - Fehér farkas’Every home is a different story,’ says the narrator of one of the sixteen short stories in White Wolf while looking for her own childhood home. Every unhappy home is unhappy in its own way – and so are the stories in Tóth’s new volume, in which the writer’s voice is darker and more radical than ever.

These are stories of trauma, oppression, submission, exclusion, stigma and violence. Many of them tell of painful secrets: childhood abuses, unpunished crimes, lost children – suffering that goes without punishment, apology and forgiveness.

‘I try to come to terms with the injustice and cruelty of this world with profound humility and try to understand the motivation of the perpetrators with compassion,’ Krisztina Tóth said in an interview. Her mostly nameless heroes are everywhere around us, stepping into the same elevator, running behind us on the staircase. Many of them are so wounded or tormented that they behave in strange ways. As ever, Tóth observes these people with her rare sensitivity and attentiveness to detail.

Product details
ISBN 978 963 1438 54 3
2019, hard cover with jacket
132 pages, 3499 HUF

“The secret, like some indestructible bacterium, was gnawing away at and destroying the bodies of every one of them, including her own.”

English excerpt available

Krisztina Tóth

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JUDIT KOVÁTS: Expelled

Novel

Kováts Judit - Hazátlanok

It is 1944 and Lilli Hartmann, an ethnic German schoolgirl in Kežmarok, a small town at the foot of the High Tatras, lives her life, alongside her Hungarian and Slovak friends, far away from the war. But when the Slovak partisan revolt breaks out, this peaceful world is shattered: following pogroms against the ethnic German population, the Germans are evacuated to Austria and Germany. When the war ends, Lilli and her family set off to return home. Though they are fortunate enough to escape the mass murder of ethnic Germans in Přerov, her father is arrested as soon as they arrive in their hometown.

Although the war is over, for ethnic Germans there is no peace. Held collectively responsible for the war, their property is confiscated, Lilli’s father is sentenced to forced labour, while Lilli and the other female members of the family are first interned in Nováky, a former concentration camp, then expelled from Czechoslovakia and sent to a war-torn Germany where the refugees are not at all welcome. Hunger, illness, the yearning for a homeland lost forever, the death of loved ones – disaster follows upon disaster as Lilli gradually grows into a young woman who was robbed of her youth forever, but who copes with her predicament with much optimism and humour.

Lilli Hartmann is one of the more than twelve million ethnic Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary who were held collectively responsible for World War II and imprisoned, taken for forced labour, tortured, murdered, or expelled from their homeland. Her story is not only part of a chapter in the history of twentieth-century Europe that has been suppressed for too long, but the story of a refugee, of someone forced by history to leave her homeland, raising questions that are all too timely today.

 

A silenced story: how ethnic Germans were ousted from Eastern Europe after World War II

Product details
ISBN 978 963 1438 42 0
2019, hard cover with jacket
408 pages, 3999 HUF

German excerpt available

Judit Kováts

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Judit Kováts

KJ1.jpg

A widely published historian and archivist before becoming a writer, Judit Kováts is the author of novels based on oral history interviews and informed by her scholarly work. Her themes are the relatively little-known historical traumas of the twentieth century: the predicament of Hungarian women at the time of the Russian occupation in 1945 (Denied, 2012); of ethnic Hungarians in the Czechoslovakia of the 1940s and 1950s (Severed, 2015); and the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II (Expelled, 2019).

Expelled

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GÁBOR VIDA: Where His Soul Is

Vida Gábor - Ahol az ő lelkeIt is 1914, and World War I is just about to break out. Former army officer Sándor Werner decides to leave for the New World to make his fortune. He is planning to take his son Lukács with him, but at the last moment Lukács decides to stay, eventually ending up in Africa where he spends the war years. Father and son meet up again in 1919, both of them poor and disillusioned, in their home town of Kolozsvár, now occupied by the Romanian army. They must both go into hiding – the father because he has a secret mission, the son because he avoided conscription.

What was it like, the world that father and son left, and does it resemble the new world they have returned to? What happened to the women while the men were fighting or in hiding? And why doesn’t the statue of the great Hungarian king step down from its pedestal to intervene in the course of history when the living are helpless, or mess up everything?

Gábor Vida’s novel maps the forgotten or silenced history of Transylvania in the wars before and after the Treaty of Trianon, signed a century ago.

The forgotten history of Transylvania in the wars before and after World War I

Product details
ISBN 978 963 1439 00 7
2019 (2nd edition), hard cover with jacket
288 pages
3699 HUF

Rights sold
Romanian, Institutul Cultural Roman

Gábor Vida

 

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ÁDÁM BODOR: Nowhere

Short stories

Bodor Ádám - SeholÁdám Bodor’s long-awaited new volume comprises seven short stories. The ‘nowhere’ of the title is a place familiar from Bodor’s previous works: the peripheries of Eastern Europe, a land characterized by oppression, misery and absurdity on the one hand, and a kind of fairy-tale magic, strange and powerful emotional ties and natural beauty on the other.

The time of these stories is impossible to determine, except for the first, “The Marmots of the Matterhorn.” In this story, the narrator – a scientist – is tempted to ask for his files from the archives of the communist secret services, but eventually backs out, and returns to his research on marmots, those shy and elusive animals. The only other story where the realia of the modern world appear to some degree is the concluding one, “Rebi”, in which the narrator relentlessly asks about the fate his wife, who disappeared the previous night when she went out to bring back their goats, which had suddenly escaped. Worried for his wife, with whom he seems to be in a love-hate relationship, the narrator appears unaware of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb or the panic of his neighbours.

All the other stories take place in a world well-known from Bodor’s novels. “Paraskiva” is about the mysterious death of the narrator’s stepmother, spiked with chilling and hilarious detail in equal measure. In “Hekk,” four people live and work on top of a hill, overseen by their rich Arab boss, who orders them to give shelter to the eponymous criminal. They obey, willy-nilly, only to witness his horrific death. In “Leordina” a young couple try their luck at trading in hair, while in “Pitvarsk” the narrator tries to cope with the news that his ex-girlfriend, who left him six months earlier for an army officer, has died. In “Milu” inmates in a prison cut the hair of a new inmate, who dies as a result.

The stories in Nowhere are hallucinatory stories about love and death, told with a grotesque humour akin to the ‘dirty realism’ of Cormac McCarthy. Every one of these stories has its own inner logic and emanates a kind of wild freedom, in spite of the horrific nature of the events recounted.

Hallucinatory stories about love and death

Product details
ISBN 978 963 14 3857 4
2019, hard cover with jacket

156 pages, 3499 HUF

English excerpt available

Ádám Bodor

Rights sold
French, Cambourakis

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ÁDÁM BODOR: The Smell of Prison

Bodor Ádám - A börtön szaga - Válaszok Balla Zsófia kérdéseireIn 1950, Ádám Bodor was a teenager in communist Romania where he and some of his schoolmates founded an anti-communist league in the city of Cluj, and distributed leaflets calling for the overthrow of the regime. They were soon arrested and served two years in prison between 1952 and 1954. Bodor, who moved to Budapest in the 1980s, recounted his prison experiences in 2001 in a radio interview with poet Zsófia Balla, a fellow Transylvanian Hungarian from Cluj also living in Budapest. The Smell of Prison was born out of that interview. In the course of telling his life-story, Bodor paints a vivid picture of Romania in the sinister decades between the 1950s and the 1970s, as well as of Hungary, the ’happiest barracks’ in the Eastern camp, in the 1980s.

Bodor, whose prose is extremely dense and sparse, and who has always stressed that his works are wholly fictional, turns out to be an excellent storyteller when recounting his own experiences. Although he talks about the broader social and historical context with rare insight and intelligence, what makes this volume especially memorable are the stories and anecdotes told by someone who managed to preserve his integrity and a degree of freedom in a totalitarian regime.

Few authors have talked about their prison experiences as candidly as does Bodor in The Smell of Prison, without any attempt at heroics. While Bodor provides a chilling account of the notorious prison of Gherla, this is more than outweighed by the vitality and optimism springing from the prisoner’s tender age.

The Smell of Prison is compulsory reading for anyone wanting to understand how it is possible to survive an oppressive regime and grow into a major writer with a radically modern capability for world-building that transcends political dimensions.

“My height was five foot eight at the time of my arrest… when I was released, I was six feet tall, which is still my height. I grew four inches in jail.”

Product details
ISBN 978 963 1438 581 5
2019 (3rd edition), hard cover with jacket

196 pages, 3499 HUF

Substantial English excerpts published in The Hungarian Quarterly, No. 165 (Spring 2002), pp. 3–26 and No. 166 (Summer 2002), pp. 19–37.

Ádám Bodor

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PÁL ZÁVADA: Adrift in the Fog

Závada Pál - Hajó a ködben - ÜKH 2019Závada’s new novel focuses on a legendary family at a dramatic moment in history. It is spring 1944, Hitler’s army has just invaded Hungary, and the inheritors of the Manfréd Weiss Works are weighing their chances of survival. The family, owners of the biggest steelworks and munitions factories in Hungary (and one of the biggest in Europe) are well-known figures in the economic, political and social life of Budapest. In the first half of the novel we learn much about their opulent lifestyle as well as their heartaches and desires. However, as most of them are of Jewish origin, their story soon turns into an astonishing and controversial saga of survival as Ferenc Chorin, the head of the family of magnates, decides to accept the offer of SS Obersturmbannführer Kurt Becher to trade their wealth for the lives of their family.

Is it right to make a pact with the devil if your life is at stake? Are any of the dilemmas that arise in this predicament – collaboration, high treason, the betrayal of hundreds of thousands of fellow sufferers – at issue here? Without passing judgement on his characters, the real-life as well as fictitious members of the family, Závada shows how they deal with these questions, each in their own particular way.

 

Product details
ISBN 978 963 1438 55 0
2019, hard cover with jacket
420 pages, 4299 HUF

English excerpt available

A wealthy Jewish family serving the German aircraft industry

 

Pál Závada