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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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Anna T. Szabó: Exercises in Escapology

Short Stories

Könyv: Szabadulógyakorlat (Szabó T. Anna)

This is a book of love and death: Anna T. Szabó’s third collection of short stories is concerned with the body and the soul, with yearning and infatuation, with joy and the lack of it, with the glorious yet terrifying forces that inhabit human beings, with how we yield to – or rein in – our desires. The forty stories almost all concern the lives and fates of women, from teenagers to the elderly.

The short stories’ protagonists inhabit widely differing milieus, social classes and periods, yet their problems are similar: passion appears to be draining away from their lives, their frustrated desires threaten now to explode, now to end in apathy or depressed resignation. What Anna T. Szabó is most interested in is the instinctual in the depths of our well-ordered lives: whether passion can be civilised, and whether it is possible – and worthwhile – to love in any way other than in an all-or-nothing fashion. In the volume the reverberations of fierce and otherworldly passions meld with the sounds of attempts at a rapprochement with sober, everyday life, with the alternation and altercation between the past and the present, between the actual and the impossible.

Several of the stories connect with specific works of music, whether rock, pop, or classical, and the very modulation of the stories, the way they, too, swell and die away, affect us as if we were listening to music. As well as music, another important leitmotif of the volume is the mystical: tales of witches.

Exercises in Escapology unearths mysteries about identity and relationships which – though we may not yet have formulated them explicitly – will be familiar to every reader.

Where lies the boundary between love and clinginess? At what point can one say that a relationship has turned abusive? What does it mean to be fulfilled? Can one ever regain the passion of one’s youth? Is it possible to come to terms with growing old? (Kinga Forgách, Könyves Magazin)

Product details
ISBN 978 963 1440 18 8
2020, hard cover with jacket

224 pages
3499 HUF

Anna T. Szabó

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Tibor Noé Kiss: Unfathomable Landscape

Novel

Kiss Tibor Noé - Beláthatatlan táj

Following a car crash a young woman in her twenties falls into a coma. When he is not by her sickbed her father spends his time investigating the causes of the accident. On an estate near the motorway there live a brother and sister: though in adjacent rooms, they might as well be on two different continents. These four characters are the protagonists of the book and at the same time the story’s narrators. For all of them the accident turns out to be a life-changing event: finding themselves in a radically unfamiliar situation, the narrative of the lives that they have constructed for themselves is turned upside down and reordered.

Thus there are four narrators. The voice of Dorka, who is unconscious, is at first represented with intelligible sentences but these slowly disintegrate into phantoms, impressions, and fragments of consciousness, indicative of the fact that the young woman in a coma is coming ever closer to the end of her life. The voice of Dorka’s father, a divorced history teacher in his fifties, is characterised by suffering, self-reproach, and above all by burnout. The accident forces him to confront his own as well as his daughter’s past, and in so doing he finds an unexpected chance of a strange love affair.

As for the siblings living without their parents, the voice of the twenty-year-old young man is teeming with slang and vulgar language: he doesn’t go to school, he is not at work, and tries to make his aimless existence bearable through drugs and friends that even he finds intolerable. The fourth voice is that of his sister, the sensitive and introspective Zsófi, who has been left alone with her younger brother and thus obliged to grow up all too quickly.

Gradually light is shed on the dramatic and complex nature of this network of four characters. Dorka’s father meets and falls in love with the much younger Zsófi. Only at the very end of the novel do we discover that Zsófi’s job is to sit in front of CCTV screens, and that therefore she is very familiar with the circumstances of the car crash. She knows that it was Dorka who yanked the steering wheel aside to avoid three young men who dashed in front of her car. As she examines the footage, it dawns on Zsófi that one of them was her own brother.

This novel shows a clash between four characters, four different experiences of life, and two different social milieus, and although the lives of the actors become entangled, in reality they never meet, since the soundtrack in the head of each of them is quite different. The relationships between them may be a loving one, or that between parent and child, or brother and sister, yet in spite of this each remains in his or her own bubble, unable to take a step out of their individual consciousness, out of the landscape that the others find unfathomable.

People remain silent, just saying their piece, to themselves and by themselves.

Product details
ISBN 978 963 1440 18 8
2020, hard cover with jacket

320 pages, 125×197 mm
3699 HUF

Tibor Noé Kiss

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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