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Under the Frog: A Black Comedy

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  1,431 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
The Hungarians have an expression for the worst place in the world to be: “Under the frog’s ass down a coal mine.”

Under the Frog, Tibor Fischer’s brilliant recreation of postwar Eastern Europe, was the surprise literary success of London, where it won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It is the very witty and very sad account of two young men
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 1st 1995 by The New Press (first published October 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lorenzo Berardi
ATTENTION: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN A LONG AND UNNECESSARY PREAMBLE

I used to play basketball in the same team for around 10 years in a row from childhood to the mid-teens. Those were glorious days.

My team was named Polisportiva Lame (quite funny for English speaking ears, isn't it?) also known as Pol.Lame (pollame meaning "poultry" in Italian) and we were very consistent players.
Years passed by and we were always standing at the bottom of our league.
Nevertheless, I was passionate or masochist e
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Jeannine
It is a good book in some respects but it is an extremely difficult read. The writer is telling us the story for 250 pages. Virtually no dialogue. Metaphor after metaphor, he must have spent a month rehearsing one sentence. So many times I found myself stuck having to re-read because I had no idea what was going on or what time period we were in. The chapter headings are worthless unless you are in the last chapter. This is because he switches gears so many times in a chapter you can't remember ...more
Claire
Jul 23, 2008 Claire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So I'm convinced that the poor title choice and even worse cover design are the reason this book has received so little attention. Probably one of the best I've read this year--I found it more or less at random because I was taking a trip to Budapest and wanted to get a picture of the culture and history before I went. The book follows the lives of two friends in Budapest from just after the second world war until the 1956 revolution when thousands of Hungarians fought communist power and succee ...more
Horatiu
Mar 26, 2017 Horatiu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O istorie tragico-comică a comunismului. Am rămas mut de uimire. Cartea e uluitor de bună. Poate sfârșitul e cam grăbit, dar, în rest...
Kwoomac
Oct 12, 2010 Kwoomac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before traveling to Budapest, I wanted to read something that took place there. This was good choice. The story takes place in communist Hungary, culminating with the uprising in October, 1956. Hungary was invaded by Germany during WWII and then in 1948 was handed over to Russia. The main character, Gyuri Fischer, is a basketball player on a traveling team in 1956. He, along with the other players, are on the payroll of the Hungarian Railway. They are required to work very little and spend all t ...more
Vit Babenco
Dec 27, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Does it help being the clever pig on the way to the abattoir?”
Totalitarian regimes comprise those who serve them and those who hate them. Those who serve try to destroy those who hate. But when the number of those who hate amounts to the critical mass there is an explosion.
“I expect some of you will be committing suicide. Indeed I will consider my work a failure if some of you turds don’t try a bit of wrist-slashing. And if you don’t do the job properly, we’re willing to help; attempted suicide
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Hubert
Jun 06, 2010 Hubert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone.
Shelves: fiction, history, humor
I finally finished this book after multiple stop and starts over the course of a year. Why all the ADD? Fischer has a knack for throwing in a side reference or vignette in a heartbeat, expounding on that reference for a few pages or more, and then going back to the original topic at the last part of the chapter. This makes for a temporally disjointed experience.

The story starts a few years before the Hungarian Revolution of '56, then Fischer moves to backtracks to the past, and then returns to
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Alex Sarll
'Under a frog's arse, down a coal-mine' - the Hungarian phrase denoting the absolute nadir. And even in that nation's long and fairly inglorious history (the genius of Hungarian armies for getting wiped out is a frequent motif here), an apt description for the period this novel covers, from the bruising end of the Second World War up to freedom's brief flowering in 1956. The half-despairing, half-optimistic refrain "This can't go on much longer" is another running joke; alas, it does. And it's a ...more
Wyatt
Jun 10, 2009 Wyatt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Basketball, nudism, communism...Like one of Fischer's characters says "Life is too short for good books...one should only read great books (p. 78)". This is a great book. Instantly one of my favorites of all time.

Under the Frog is about a basketball team in Hungary in the late 1950's/ early 1960's. It has a certain level of familiar Eastern European absurdity to it, it never lets you down with it's wit, and it gives a nice interesting slice of history.

Tibor's use of language is impressive too.
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Dennis
Apr 13, 2015 Dennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not so much a novel as a series of anecdotes told over time so the story doesn't really flow, it jumps, which often left me wondering how the protagonist got from point A to point B. There was a lot of background to each story in order to suggest how each of the characters arrived but only the minimum which saved a lot of time in details like "plot development" but I felt like characters were just taken on and off the shelf as necessary.
That said, the anecdotes were mostly hilarious and
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ristubasan
Really enjoyed it - gratified to see others comparing it with Catch 22, which I have not read for decades but which came to mind quickly. The Communist setting, the casual oppression, the humor in the face of it, perhaps harder to explain to readers who aren't already versed in it, and from what little I do know of it (and I am sure there is more humor here for Hungarian readers) I think he managed to get it across through the characters and their actions. Occasionally I was distracted by bits o ...more
Kevin Tole
Having read and reread this many times now there are still passages I cannot read without ending up on the floor in fits of laughter - like the time of Pataki's arrest by the AVO and the story that follows, and the eating contest. This is a well written and very funny book. Its a pity that Mr. Fischer's subsequent books have failed to live up to the promise of this one. The characters that Fischer invents through the book are a real delight and all with distinct charm and the capacity for the de ...more
Tanvir Muntasim
Aug 08, 2011 Tanvir Muntasim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I read it years ago, it turned me into a staunch fan of Tibor Fischer and his inimitable sense of humor. I tracked down each of his book and read them, but this remains to be his best work to date. If you want to read acid sharp humor poking fun at the communist regime, this is the definitive book to read.
Leif Erik
One of the funniest and heartbreaking books I've ever read. If you're up on your mid-century mid-euro history you'll be enthralled. The brutal suppression of the '56 Hungarian uprising has never been told in a more humorous vein.
Kate
Apr 03, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the few books I've read more than 3 times. I've called people up just to read them sentences out of this book. Reading this will make you sympathetic towards Hungarians and basketball players. All of TF's other fiction is rotten, so don't bother with his subsequent books.
Tanvir Muntasim
Aug 08, 2011 Tanvir Muntasim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spectacular debut novel from Fischer, with the unusual backdrop of Hungary in the 60's, with his unique humor that makes this a memorable read.
Marty
May 23, 2011 Marty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So. Good. Hilarious novel about Hungarian basketball players before and during the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
James Wallman
Feb 12, 2014 James Wallman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Funniest book I've ever read. Funnier - even, if it really is possible - than Catch-22.
Víctor Sampayo
Feb 26, 2017 Víctor Sampayo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Divertida, cruel, descorazonadora, crítica. Así Bajo el culo del sapo, opera prima de Tibor Fischer en la que vemos los pasos de un joven basquetbolista húngaro en los años posteriores a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, cuando la nación magiar escapó del yugo nazi... para caer en el yugo estalinista, en el que la búsqueda de la libertad parece la única consigna válida e importante.
Lukasz Pruski
May 23, 2015 Lukasz Pruski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tibor Fischer's "Under the Frog" was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize (the best original novel written in the English language) in 1993. Indeed it is an extraordinary book - powerful, often tragic and hysterically funny. It is advertised as a "black comedy" - well, maybe; life in general might be viewed as a black comedy, considering the futility of human efforts in the face of the guaranteed unhappy ending. Salman Rushdie offers a blurb for the cover: "A delicate, seriocomic treasur ...more
Adriane
Feb 16, 2017 Adriane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I finally finished this book after multiple stop and starts over the course of a year. Why all the ADD? Fischer has a knack for throwing in a side reference or vignette in a heartbeat, expounding on that reference for a few pages or more, and then going back to the original topic at the last part of the chapter.
Emily
Mar 19, 2007 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Guys who like crude humor and Magyar history

I read this book in small chunks and considered giving up several times. Tibor Fischer sets his novel in Soviet era Hungary, the story culminating with the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The protagonist, Gyuri Fischer (ahem, cough cough, did Jonathan Safran Foer read this book? The character-named-for-the-author is only one reason I pose the question . . . more on that later if I feel up to it), is stumbling through life, his biggest goal avoiding more compulsory army service. He's on a basketbal
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Paul
Nov 03, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
À la fois intéressant et décevant, ce roman de Toby Fischer. Je lui ai donné ****, mais si j'avais à lui attribuer une note, elle serait d'environ 7,8 sur 10.

À coup sûr, la plume de Fischer est vive et fort drôle. J'ai ri par moment à gorge déployée. Fischer sait rendre le ridicule et l'absurde d'une situation tragique, a le sens de la chute et possède un vocabulaire riche. Pour ce qui est de l'intrigue, du fil conducteur? Outre le contexte historique de la Hongrie communiste, dont le point culm
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Richard Moss
Read this for my book group, so not an author I was familiar with.

There's a lot to like here. The book is genuinely funny, offering dry, gallows humour about the early years of Communist Hungary from the end of the Second World War to the 1956 uprising.

The final chapter, which covers the events of 1956, is poignant and effective, but I just wish the rest of the novel lived up to that standard.

Either deliberately or accidentally, Fischer bewilders with a stream of characters and continued digress
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Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
sotto il giogo dell'ideologia




"Quando sentì alla radio la notizia della morte di Stalin, Gyuri si stava
lavando i capelli. A parte la sensazione di intenso benessere che lo
pervase, la prima cosa che gli venne in mente fu se l'intero sistema sarebbe
crollato prima che lui sostenesse l'esame di marxismo-leninismo che doveva
dare la settimana successiva. Poteva contare sulla caduta del comunismo o
doveva proprio mettersi a studiare Marx?
La seconda fu come meglio mancare di rispetto nei dieci minuti di s
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Lisetta
Questo romanzo �� come una finestra aperta, che ci permette di guardare verso un paese troppo spesso ignorato dai libri di storia, per lasciare spazio alle grandi nazioni ���prime donne��� della seconda guerra mondiale. Dell���Ungheria e degli eventi nefasti e violenti che la travolsero a partire dal 1940 fino al 1956, ne so poco e niente.

Ecco allora che termini stringati,come:

Armata rossa

Invasione sovietica

Repubblica Popolare d'Ungheria

La Rivoluzione ungherese del 1956

Si trasformano in fatti,
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Mac
Jan 13, 2014 Mac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the table of contents, it's clear this story will progress toward the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and there is a lot that's appealing about the story. The absurdity of the communist rule is wittily played out through humor, the black comedy of the subtitle. Even though the writing is sometimes overdone (e.g., obscure words and strange metaphors), the narrator's arch tone works for me. And for all it's absurdity, the book creates a sense of being in on an important historical moment.

But th
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Alex
Sep 22, 2016 Alex rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Nope, this won't happen. I could not force myself to finish this. This is so hard to read. Maybe I am not familiar with books that have almost no dialogues or any conversations between characters. From time to time I found myself lost in setting of each scene, (or I was too distracted). But I did try to like this book, I did try to re-read each chapter and still most of the time I still didn't understand what's going on.
On page 71, Tibor quoted "Life is too short for good books, one should only
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David Whittlestone
This is a series of anecdotes strung together by a narrative through to the Hungary Uprising of 1956, The anecdotes distract from the main track of the story; indeed I thought it was a series of historical youthful snapshots until half-way through. Nevertheless, it is an interesting story and one built up deceptively to give the reader a fairly good idea of life before and leading up to the Uprising and indeed underlaying it .

Reading the story is difficult not only because of the interrupting a
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Bob
Oct 23, 2014 Bob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't stumble across this 2001 novel until 2014, but after reading "Under the Frog" I'm anxious to see what Tibor Fischer has written since because his style is so unique. I wonder, too, if he can write at least one page that doesn't have a sexual reference.
The book's alternating-era approach — disconcerting at first — adds an element of drama to the story of these basketball-playing friends during the post-World War II communist era in Hungary, all leading up to the revolt of 1956.
As one of
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Tibor Fischer is a British novelist and short story writer. In 1993 he was selected by the influential literary magazine Granta as one of the 20 best young British writers.

Fischer's parents were Hungarian basketball players, who fled Hungary in 1956. The bloody 1956 revolution, and his father's background, informed Fischer's debut novel Under the Frog, a Rabelaisian yarn about a Hungarian basketba
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“Gyuri had dropped church much in the same way he had stopped believing in Santa Claus; there came a point where it was impossible to take it seriously.” 0 likes
“This was surely the real boon of a religious upbringing: it gave you a number to ring in emergencies, which was some consolation, even if no one answered.” 0 likes
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