Krisztina Tóth’s latest novel is set in a bleak city in the bleakest of times. The scene is an isolated country that has recently been through a devastating civil war. The new government rules with an iron hand and society is fatally divided: those close to the government live in the more affluent parts of the city, while the poor are confined to ghettos. Blackouts are frequent and there is a growing shortage of goods. There are no signs of disaffection, however, thanks to tight surveillance and trolling sponsored by the state.
This is the desolate world in which Giselle, a history professor at the unitary New University, and the renowned psychiatrist Dr Kreutzer happen upon each other. The latter appears at first to be a self-assured professional but he is gradually revealed as a sex addict who picks his victims from his pool of patients: it is their vulnerability that sexually excites him.
The novel’s main theme is abuse. It is set in a world where state power has an abusive relationship with its citizens and where abuse likewise pervades personal relationships. Krisztina Tóth dispenses the details a drop at a time. A society that initially appears to be relatively normal, and the professional who seems trustworthy, both turn out to be – slowly but surely – unmanageably abnormal.
The title alludes to an infamous and cruel animal experiment in 1970, when the neurosurgeon Robert White carried out the transplant of one monkey’s head onto the body of another. The monkey came to after the operation and horrific images of it can still be found on the internet. In these the creature can be seen opening its eyes for a moment, becoming conscious and aware of what has happened to it, only to later succumb to its fate.
The exceptional deftness of Krisztina Tóth is in plentiful evidence in this new novel. The excitement and the engaging nature of the action is framed by the author’s lyrical vision and her robust sense of humour.
Krisztina Tóth’s dystopia joins a long and distinguished tradition: like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, it offers a frightening vision of a future whose chances of coming true – remote though they may be – are firmly rooted in the immanence of our present and so cannot be dismissed out of hand as something that could never happen.” Ernő Balogh, Népszava.hu
ISBN 978 963 1429 0 15
2022, hard cover with jacket
352 pages, 123×30 mm