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Gábor Schein: Oh, Rhinoceros

A novel in verse

Schein Gábor - Ó, rinocérosz

Gábor Schein’s new book is an entertainment: it imagines what would happen were the history of Europe and western civilization told by rhinoceroses. The story begins with Europa being carried away not by a bull but by a rhino, and ends with the anti-rhino media spreading the news that the source of the epidemic ­­– patient zero, as it were – was an Indian rhinoceros that was not prepared to quarantine.

And why a rhinoceros? The author provides the answer: because, unlike so many other animals, it lacks a mythology: it is a creature that has not been written about. But only until now: Gábor Schein’s work, which is narrated in turn by a rhino, Europa herself, scientists and journalists, consists of 154 short texts about rhinos: texts recalling articles from encyclopedias about the European history of rhinos; writing that suggests news items about the activities of rhinos; as well as the personal reflections and prayers of the rhino.

In the guise of the rhino the author recounts tales of Europe and of refugees, of colonization and the extinction of animal species, of Hungary, and not least of himself. But who is this rhino? A lumbering, anachronistic creature that is at the same time possessed of profoundly human desires – a creature in which are melded brutishness and delicacy of spirit, both hunter and hunted: a radically alien spirit in which we recognise the indecisive nature and the dualities of our own existence.

A late, absurdist relative of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Gábor Schein’s book is both playful and liberating.

The rhinoceros made a note: life is mere functionality, an operation that is an impersonal end in itself, disrupted only by inexplicable inquisitiveness and love without motivation and devoid of purpose.

Product details
ISBN 978 963 14 2466 9

2021, hardback
160 pages, 3299 HUF

Gábor Schein

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SZILÁRD RUBIN: Reunion in the Wolf’s Lair

In Szilárd Rubin’s only detective novel, published in 1973, it is pouring with rain on a cheerless autumn evening, the post-office has closed, and even the switchboard operator has gone home. The company of ten, though, who have gathered in the doctor’s flat in a little village in the mountains, revels in this cosy environment, isolated and sheltered from the outside world: the men are all old friends who were at school together, and this is their first reunion in fifteen years. They all know each other from way back, here there is no need to exercise their usual professional caution – or so thinks the detective inspector who is one of those enjoying himself.

But at the height of their revels a brutal murder takes place.  The murderer must be there among the nine survivors, smoking a cigarette with them at the elegantly laid-out dinner table, where they all wait in fear and trembling to see who will be next.  And suddenly someone slumps to the floor…

In the best traditions of the whodunit, the inspector at once sets about interrogating each suspect.  The relationships between those present are gradually revealed, and eventually it turns out that the entire class reunion was organised by the counter-espionage services.  With great precision and skill, Szilárd Rubin presents the various motives and interests at play and the devilish thoroughness with which the murder was plotted, administering the details in small, careful doses and making the reader work hard throughout to understand what is going on.

At the same time we are offered a panorama of post-World War II Hungarian society: “On top of the stock-in-trade motifs of sexual impropriety, greed and selfishness, we have the 1944 deportations, the Jews who escaped at the price of having to change their identity, the bourgeoisie who emigrated ahead of the ‘building of socialism’, the Transylvanian Hungarians’ resettlement in the motherland, and the informers, as well as the would-be informers.” (Lothar Müller, Süddeutsche Zeitung)

An exciting piece of genre fiction: a hugely entertaining mix of spy thriller and Agatha Christie-type village whodunit, and at the same time an astonishing feat of historical documentation. (Martin Lhotzky, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

Szilárd Rubin

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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

Rights sold
English, Seagull

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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

 

Rights sold
German, Nischen

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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