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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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Noémi Kiss: Balaton

Short stories

Könyv: Balaton (Kiss Noémi)

A hot summer’s day in the 1980s by Lake Balaton. A little girl is being taught how to swim by her grandfather. When they get out of the water, they find a corpse among the reeds. Like in all of Noémi Kiss’s powerful stories about the Balaton, aka ‘the Hungarian sea’, the excitement of discovering new things mingles with the unsettling emotion of anxiety.

For several generations, in post-war Hungary Lake Balaton was an emblem of freedom, often of a fleeting and illusory kind. This was the place where many people spent their holidays – from the party elite, in luxurious party resorts, to poor people, in small shacks. It was also the place where German families torn apart by the Berlin Wall could meet. Noémi Kiss’s stories provide a glimpse into the life of all these people and into everyday life in Hungary in the decade before the regime change – a time full of tensions and expectations.

The Balaton disappeared along with the GDR. The storms of August swept away the characteristic smell of the fritters sold by the lakeside. The clouds, like white, frilly-edged paper napkins, sat stately above the waves. Everything was wild, and flesh-searingly fleeting.

Product details
ISBN 978 963 14 2571 0

2020, paperback
125 x 197 mm
144 pages, 2999 HUF

Rights sold
German, Europa Verlag

Noémi Kiss

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Iván Sándor: What the Wind Whispers

Novel

In the summer of 2016 Z, a writer, sets off from Budapest to revisit places in Europe that were important scenes of his life, as well as of European history. He visits the refugee camp on Lesbos and views the rehearsal of a play on the Acropolis, he ambles along the River Seine, strolls through museums in Paris, and visits the battlefields of Normandy. In Vienna, he walks from the Heldenplatz to the Café Central, and returns to the house where he was born in the Zugló district of Budapest.

On these trips, he is accompanied by a variety of people: in Paris, his companion is a Hungarian-born musicologist; in Greece, a young stage film director; in Budapest, a passionate historian; and, everywhere and above all, Lil, his life’s companion.

Through his characters’ lives, Iván Sándor’s book encompasses the history of the twentieth century and beyond, up to our own times, reminding us how easily we forget. As major artists – painters, composers and writers – are evoked, artists who were driven by the desire to understand the world, we also get a glimpse of a life rich in experience and love.

A cultural and historical stroll through Europe, from the refugee camp on Lesbos to the museums of Paris

Product details
ISBN 978 963 14 3993 9

2020, paperback
160 pages, 2999 HUF

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Judit Szaniszló: The Life of Leli

Novel

Írók Boltja

Leli browses among family photos and sets about describing them. The result is a family novel, or rather, fragments of a family novel, composed of chunks of memory. As the family photos are detailed, the past, narrated in the present tense, comes alive, populated with grandmothers who worked as servants; parents who lived in concrete blocks of flats in Miskolc, in the north of Hungary; and the narrator’s brother, who was born with spina bifida and spent much of his childhood in hospitals. Parallel to these stories of the past, Leli’s present is narrated in the past tense. We learn how Leli, who is forty-two and has diabetes, struggles with trying to conceive a child.

The Life of Leli is a novel about learning to communicate with our family members and how that is ultimately impossible. It is about loving and crying, illness and health, yearning and acceptance, and the pains and routines of love, told with tenderness and empathy.

Every slice of buttered toast one drops is merely the continuation of something; every edge’s edginess is the centre of some greater whole. Things don’t end just when someone declares they are over. You don’t begin where your mother ends. Death gyrates like a humming top round everyone’s life, knocking things over as it spins.

Product details
ISBN 978 963 14 4003 4

2020, paperback
264 pages, 3499 HUF

English excerpt available

Judit Szaniszló

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Géza Bereményi: A Hungarian Copperfield

Novel

Bereményi Géza-Magyar Copperfield (új példány) - konyvkolcso

A memoir of the author’s childhood and teenage years, Géza Bereményi’s book is a fascinating chronicle of post-war Hungary, taking in the 1956 revolution and the consolidation of the communist regime in the stifling 1960s.

Many of the novel’s characters and scenes are familiar from Bereményi’s film The Midas Touch, for which he received the European Film Award for Best Director in 1989. Especially memorable is the character of his grandfather, who worked at Budapest’s Teleki Square market where, according to Bereményi, in the turmoil after World War II even paintings by Velázquez were on sale.

Brought up by his grandparents, Bereményi was ten years old at the time of the 1956 revolution, and his rebellious teenage years coincided with the consolidation of an oppressive regime. Meanwhile, his mother, who gave birth to him at the age of seventeen and had left him in the care of his loving grandparents and the tenants of the block of flats where they lived, decided to remarry and take her son back to be educated by her new husband, an abusive medical doctor.

Bereményi describes his strategies in navigating this personal as well as historical-political predicament with a wonderful sense of humour, and the result is a coming-of-age novel which strikes the perfect balance between the spheres of the personal and the political, while avoiding the pitfalls of nostalgia and pointless psychologizing. The reader learns how the happiness of his first six years, which he spent amid the love of his grandmother, who would read to him from the lives of the saints, and his streetwise grandfather, who taught him how to survive and how not to be the underdog, helped Bereményi to grow up to be the independent intellect that he is.

Populated with a rich and memorable cast of characters, A Hungarian Copperfield is a chronicle of Hungarian history and the testimony of an artist which feels fresh on every single page, narrated as it is with the sense of wonder and warmth so characteristic of its author.

How to be free under a dictatorship

Product details
ISBN 978 963 14 3437 8

2020, hardback
640 pages, 5499 HUF

English excerpt available

Géza Bereményi