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IVÁN SÁNDOR: The Seventh Day

Novel

sandor_ivan_ahetediknapIn Iván Sándor’s new novel, large masses of people are forced to abandon their homes in various parts of Europe. We are in the continent’s sixteenth-century, in the years before the Thirty Years’ War, with Spaniards, Germans, Flemings, Catholics and Protestants maiming and murdering each other on a daily basis. Two young men, Thomas and Jensen, and a girl, Eliz, leave their home in Leiden, for different reasons. Their fates intersect, and they join a troupe of actors as they journey through the war-torn continent. As we accompany them and witness their day-to-day struggle for survival, making difficult choices in inhuman circumstances and trying to come to terms with unspeakable suffering, we come away with lessons that may be distant in space and time but which certainly speak to us today. The Seventh Day is a beautiful novel written in a melancholic vein, which in the words of the critic Zsolt Kácsor is reminiscent of the sound of the shofar: “a long-drawn-out, cruelly painful cry of agony.”

“I do not write historical novels. I seek out recurring human situations, snares and ways of surviving amid the continuity of history. The stories in The Seventh Day could have taken place not only in the sixteenth century, when the novel is set, but equally in antiquity, or in the twenty-first century. The reason I put my characters into the sixteenth century is that world of the time may well be familiar to readers today: wars, hate-mongering, mass migration, religious conflict: a world made of iron. It is an era where I feel at home.”

It is a long way from remembering to forgetting and even longer from forgetting to remembering

Product details
ISBN: 9789631436747
2018, hard cover with jacket
256 pages, 130 × 197 mm
3299 HUF

Iván Sándor

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LÁSZLÓ SZILASI: Luther’s Dogs

Novel

szilasi_luther-cimterv-zold-1Szilasi’s novel narrates the story of the author’s battle with a brain tumor, which started with him losing consciousness during a class he was teaching at the university. As he tries to come to terms with this harrowing experience, he pieces together the various aspects of his life. Constructed with surgical precision, Luther’s Dogs is made up of twelve main chapters divided into subchapters, bookended with a short preface and a coda. In the first few chapters, which resemble an investigative report, Szilasi attempts to reconstitute the 48 hours he lost during his epileptic seizure, scraping together whatever information he can from the people closest to him. He goes on to give an account of his operation, the oncological treatment that follows, and then his convalescence. From time to time there are lyrical or dreamlike interludes – memories of special moments, stories and incidents that resonate profoundly, as well as family memories from the war, such as his godparents’ witnessing of the bombing of Dresden. The novel ends with something that amounts to a miracle: not only is he cured but he and his girlfriend are expecting a new baby.
Szilasi charts the side effects of his illness, including the traumatic loss of his ability to read and write, or to understand his own texts, and the loss of creativity and concentration particularly frightening for a writer and scholar. There are shockingly candid accounts of his fits of anger and precise, unsparing descriptions of bodily processes, from chronic constipation to the effects of his medications.

“Luther gave up traveling aged about 50. Thereafter he would meet those dear to him, some 50 men in all, at home and let his wife, the ex-nun Katharina von Bora, cater for them.  They ate and drank, while some noted down his Table Talk. Mutthead lurked under the tables.  It would stare in silence and without moving, watching the pieces of meat as they made their way around.  Luther paid his dog no attention.
But once he said: Look, this here is prayer itself. It is silent, it is motionless, it is filled with longing. This is what the title of my book alludes to, because it suddenly dawned on me that although I was a believer, here, amidst this great affliction, I was not praying.  There was no prayer.  Ultimately, it was to this question that my book tried to provide an answer, but perhaps the question remains, in any case, worthwhile.  Making it remain worthwhile, that was what I was trying to do.” László Szilasi

“The topic is the body, which may leave us unexpectedly and radically in the lurch, only to make us, nevertheless, cling to it in the end with quite remarkable determination.  The topic is the loss of awareness, the imperceptible nature of time, the impossibility of being cured ending with the wondrousness of the ‘and yet’.  The topic is the heart-rending falling apart of a family, and the creation of a family anew. The topic is the past of the family, personal history, the fate of parents and grandparents, the traumas of the twentieth century, of times of war and peace, of ways of surviving, particularly poverty; his spare, restrained, tensely pulsating lines disclose these matters in all their detail, not least by exploiting the genre of the confessio.  Savor the words of the ominously glorious title, Luther’s Dogs.
At last: a novel that succeeds in redeeming life.” László Darvasi

A must-read for all those who still expect literature to give them something memorable, a serious, decisive experience – something that helps us live our lives.” (Ákos Györffy)

Product details
ISBN: 9789631436778
2018, hard cover with jacket
288 pages, 125 × 197 mm
3499 HUF

English excerpt available

László Szilasi

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Dénes Krusovszky: Those We Will Never Be

Novel

krusovszky-akikmarnemIn 1990, a man crashes his car and dies close to Iowa City. In 2013, a young man wakes up in Budapest after a bitter row with his girlfriend and takes the train to his native town in the eastern part of the country. In 1986, a patient suffering from post-polio syndrome and lying in an iron lung asks his male nurse to record him narrating his life. Gradually, the pieces of the mosaic slowly come together in this slow-paced, beautiful and poignant book, the first novel from Dénes Krusovszky, one of the most significant poets of his generation.

The protagonist of the novel, Bálint Lente is a thirty-something journalist working for the online press, an intelligent guy who is nevertheless fairly slow on the uptake when it comes to the feelings of those around him – his girlfriend, his divorced mother, or his friend from high school. It is Bálint who tries to make sense of the story as it unfolds from fragmented pieces: a tape left in an abandoned nursing home, some rumours, a few scant words uttered by Bálint’s friend.

This is a coming-of-age story about the Y-generation in Hungary, trying to find their own life and identity amid frustrated hopes, resentment of their parents’ generation, the dark shadows cast by the terrible 20th century, and the ideological and emotional chaos of the turn of the millennium. This is not only a novel about individual and collective memory, but also about personal freedom – about learning to live by coming to terms with our heritage, historical and personal, as well as with possible versions of ourselves that once looked attainable but which we will, however, never be.

“I fell in love with this book… I wish people would talk about it on the bus, in the sauna, at the university, in parliament, on the radio and on TV. Our country would be a much better place.” (Csaba Károlyi)

Product details
ISBN: 9789631436747
2018, hard cover with jacket
256 pages, 130 × 197 mm
3299 HUF

English and German excerpt available

Interview with Dénes Krusovszky and review on Those We Will Never Be on hlo.hu

Dénes Krusovszky

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EDINA SZVOREN: My Poems

Thirteen stories

szvoren_verseim_webIn Edina Szvoren’s fourth short story collection, which carries the deceptive title My Poems, several characters are engaged in writing: stepping outside reality in a way that still keeps them part of it. The poems of one female character are accepted for publication by a major daily newspaper, which changes her relationship with her father, who now looks at her daughter through totally different eyes. A male character keeps track of his daily life with his wife by filling up notebooks. Szvoren’s “absurd realist” world abounds in secrets and obsessions. The female character of the story entitled “Let Me Tell You Something About My Life” has served time for bestiality. The mother of the narrator of one story becomes so infatuated with her tenant that they conspire to lock up the narrator in a bedlinen drawer, while in another story a woman is obsessed with a physics teacher’s YouTube videos. The narrator of “Visitors,” who is responsible for a car accident, is repeatedly tormented by imaginary prison inmates even though she has been acquitted.

Szvoren, who is intrigued by “the prosaic character of the sublime and the poetic character of the trivial”, chronicles the “complex, morose” details of the working hours of employees in an office block (“I’ve Been Through This, This Has Happened Before”), the pros and cons of owning a trailer (“The Daughter of the Thief-God Lives in Elek”). As she says about the creative process: “One unimportant thing leads me to another, that to a third, and I end up working with the fourth – that’s the way it goes. It seems that when I write I am not trying to nail something down… but to re-create something from the building blocks of reality, creating these Lego structures at random.”

It is not only the formal rigour of her sentences, their bone-chilling perfection, that makes Edina Szvoren’s new volume of stories worth savouring.  Her unsparing psychological sensitivity and all-penetrating vision reach simultaneously into the very depths of human beings and into their relationships with each other, while being capable of making one feel absolutely anything, even if that should happen to be banal.”  (Tibor Noé Kiss)

Review on hlo.hu

Edina Szvoren

Product details
ISBN: 9789631436631
2018, hard cover with jacket
212 pages, 120 × 190 mm
3299 HUF

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RÉKA MÁN-VÁRHEGYI: Magnetic Hill

man_varhegyi_magneshegy_0328Réka Mán-Várhegyi’s novel paints a vivid picture of the life of young academics in Hungary at the beginning of the 21st century. Enikő, a thirty-something feminist sociologist returns to Budapest from New York, brimming with research plans. Armed with state-of-the-art research methods and theories, she leaves her husband, an American performance artist, in order to write a “real self-help book” entitled The Misery of Hungarians. Yet she finds herself struggling with writer’s block. Tamás Bogdán, a star lecturer at the university, a first-generation intellectual, is in a relationship with Enikő as well as with Réka, a student of them both. Réka, who is writing a novel, comes from a dystopian communist-style housing estate, a breeding-ground for neo-Nazi ideologies, which happens to be the subject of Bogdán’s research. The novel ends in Florence, with Enikő and another Hungarian sociologist bathing in the sea after giving their papers at a conference on the poverty and inequality stemming from globalization.
Magnetic Hill is much more than a campus novel: through the struggle of the main characters, we glimpse several layers of contemporary Hungarian society, each with their particular milieu, history, prejudices and challenges, from leftist liberal intellectuals and aristocratic families to first-generation intellectuals from the provinces, as well as marginalized groups. This eminently readable, often hilariously funny novel touches upon a number of questions, ranging from female identity to the gaps between theory and practice as well as between the world as seen from the West and as viewed from Hungary.

“If you bring up Eastern Europe at these kinds of events, it can feel as if you’re talking about the moon, except that these days Eastern Europe is no longer of the slightest interest to anyone.”
“Oh, come now, that’s surely putting it far too strongly,” says Regina.
Enikő shrugs.
“You’re taking a rose-coloured view. Better to be realistic about your situation at these conferences.  You’ll notice how you automatically treat westerners as being of a higher order.”
“Is that what you, of all people, really think?” asks Regina.
“Yes, me of all people,” replies Enikő.
“Surely it’s not the west Europeans’ fault if we regard them as ‘higher order’ beings.”
“Of course not, but then it isn’t our fault either,” says Enikő. “I assure you that you’re not especially important in their eyes, as you have only a narrow little sample of research to offer. ‘But you only work on Hungary, right?‘ they’ll say, quite understandably I might add, since they cover all of Europe, at the very least.”

Product details
ISBN: 9789631436600
2018, flexicover
388 pages, 123 × 18 mm
3499 HUF

English excerpt available

Review on Magnetic Hill on hlo.hu
Interview with the author on hlo.hu

Réka Mán-Várhegyi

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KRISZTIÁN GRECSÓ: Vera

veraKrisztián Grecsó, one of the most popular writers in Hungary, has written a beautiful novel. Vera takes place in the city of Szeged, in 1980, against the backdrop of the stuffy world of the final, weary decade of socialism with its overwhelming lies, corruption and nepotism.

Vera is an eleven-year-old girl, and her life seems perfectly secure: she excels at school and at horse riding, and has loving parents. But in a matter of weeks, her life
is turned upside down. One event leads to another in a chain reaction, too fast for Vera to understand them and her own reactions to them. How did her best friend become her greatest, sworn enemy? Why is it so exciting yet frightening to spend time with the new arrival, Józef, the rowdy Polish boy? And why do adults have secrets, sometimes dirty, shameful and painful ones, if they insist on Vera telling the truth?

In the course of these few boisterous weeks, Vera finds herself breaking rules despite herself—she plays truant, steals and lies. She learns that nobody around her is who she thought they were: she herself is an adopted child, her adoptive father’s parents died in the holocaust, and her best friend’s father is her adopted father’s brother—in a way.

Written with the rare warmth, sensitivity and empathy that have made Grecsó’s work such a favourite among readers, Vera traces the emotional, intellectual and physical development of a pre-adolescent, poised on the tightrope between childhood and adulthood. The reader will surely fall in love with Vera, a brave, intelligent and lovely child afflicted with feelings and with knowledge that arrived all too early in her life.

Besides Vera’s internal turmoil, the readers of this finely wrought novel will also get a glimpse into the pain of adults, attenuated by the fact that they are seen through the filter of a child. As we follow events through Vera’s consciousness, we gradually understand how little sense we adults can make of people and things, even though we cannot be as innocently honest and emotional about them as a child.

“One thing follows from another, like dominoes tumbling along in a straight line, with each step being innocent and unavoidable in itself.”

Product details
978 963 14 3829 1
2019, hard cover with jacket
336 pages, 125×197 mm
3699 HUF

English excerpt available

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MARIANNA D. BIRNBAUM: Untold Tales of Love and Shame

untold storiesIf women of yore who had lived their lives in the shadows of men spoke up and told their stories, what would they say? The six stories in this book span almost five hundred years and two continents. These ‘invisible stories’ are the monologues of six Jewish women whose point of view had been all but hidden beyond the stories in which they were merely supporting actors.

Birnbaum, a cultural historian, reveals the feelings and ideas of these women through fictitious diaries, letters and confessions. Five of them are well-known historical figures or characters in famous works of art: Gilda Molcho from Verdi’s Rigoletto; Reyna, daughter of Gracia Mendes, the famed Renaissance banker; Fromet, wife of the revered philosopher Moses Mendelssohn; Rebecca Gratz, one of the founders of several Jewish Aid Societies in America in the 19th century; or Léda, the lover and muse of Endre Ady, one of the most important Hungarian poets. The sixth woman, the narrator of “Mici’s Playbook,” tells the story of a typical Jewish Hungarian woman in the 20th century: persecution, survival and starting anew in the New World. This is the longest and most poignant story in which an elegant old woman, victim of a street attack, is lying in a vegetative state – or so she pretends to the people visiting her in the hospital. In fact, she hears and sees everything, and has her own, often deprecating, opinion of all those around her, especially her own daughter.

Marianna D. Birnbaum’s ‘untold stories,’ written in a dynamic prose that has the feel of immediacy, offer realities behind the reality well known from textbooks. They provide valuable, sometimes funny, sometimes heartrending footnotes to mainstream cultural history.

If women of yore who had lived their lives in the shadows of men spoke up and told their stories, what would they say?

Product details
ISBN 978 963 1437 24 9
2018, hard cover with jacket
160 pages, 110×180 mm
2990 HUF

Excerpt on hlo.hu

Complete English translation available

Marianna D. Birnbaum