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Journey by Moonlight

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4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,963 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews
A major classic of 1930s literature, Antal Szerb's Journey by Moonlight (Utas és Holdvilág) is the fantastically moving and darkly funny story of a bourgeois businessman torn between duty and desire.

'On the train, everything seemed fine. The trouble began in Venice ...'

Mihály has dreamt of Italy all his life. When he finally travels there, on his honeymoon with Erszi, he s
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Pushkin Press (first published 1937)
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toutecrimson Here's the original text online:

http://mek.oszk.hu/01000/01080/index....

Also, if you're looking for other Hungarian classics online, you're likely to…more
Here's the original text online:

http://mek.oszk.hu/01000/01080/index....

Also, if you're looking for other Hungarian classics online, you're likely to find them on the above linked site.(less)
Embers by Sándor MáraiJourney by Moonlight by Antal SzerbFatelessness by Imre KertészThe Door by Magda SzabóThe Paul Street Boys by Ferenc Molnár
20th Century Hungarian Literature
2nd out of 131 books — 121 voters
Journey by Moonlight by Antal SzerbSubtly Worded by TeffiThe Spectre of Alexander Wolf by Gaito GazdanovThe Queen of Spades and Selected Works by Alexander PushkinA Tale Without a Name by Penelope S. Delta
Pushkin Press
1st out of 24 books — 6 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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David
Jan 05, 2011 David marked it as spurned
The odds that I will finish this book are, according to most statisticians, negligible, so I should just dispense with the charade and chuck this bitch on the discard pile. It's currently on the far side of my bedside table, where it continues to collect a thin layer of what I would call picturesque dust. I look at it before I go to sleep every night, but only out of the corner of my eyes, because it silently accuses me of failure, and as the days go by its silence grows louder and louder and mo ...more
Jessica
This is the sort of book I love...one that you come across somewhere (in this case, a castle library in Italy) and feel sure that it was hiding there all this time, waiting for you to find it. The author is Hungarian, and the novel was originally published in 1937; its English translation appeared in 2000. 'Journey by Moonlight' is unlike any novel I've read: the atmosphere is both dreamy & descriptive, rich in history and detail. The characters are interesting, and the dialogue is excellent ...more
Ben Winch
Boy, am I ever having a problem finishing books lately! This one has almost grabbed me, and I've made it to within 50 pages of its 230-page end, but I can't help noticing it's been almost grabbing me since I started it, with no increase in my interest since. Granted, it's hard to read when you've just fallen in love, with a woman with three rowdy sons, and moved house 1000kms, and when you're not absorbed in deep conversation or communion or trying to entertain or discipline children can hardly ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Dec 04, 2013 Lorenzo Berardi rated it really liked it
The first time I've heard about Antal Szerb was no more than two months ago. Since then, I managed to put my hands onto all the novels by Szerb translated into English, whose number equals to three.

I had the luck to make a good catch while visiting an Oxfam charity shop in lovely Bath, UK.
Bless the kind reader who donated Szerb's novels to Oxfam!

'Journey by Moonlight' ('Utas és holdvilág'), published in 1937, is widely considered as Szerb's masterpiece, but I must confess that I liked 'The Pen
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Jim Coughenour
Nov 02, 2014 Jim Coughenour rated it really liked it
Foied vinom pipafo, cra carefo.

A Faliscan saying, meaning "Enjoy the wine today, tomorrow there'll be none." Szerb quotes it twice in this short novel, and it's as good an epigraph as any for Journey by Moonlight's comic melancholy.

It took me three tries to get into this novel, but then its sad humorous charm began to work on me and I couldn't put it down. Mostly it's told from the bemused perspective of Mihály, a failed conformist from Budapest who deserts his new wife on their Italian honeymoo
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Chuck LoPresti
Apr 01, 2011 Chuck LoPresti rated it it was amazing
Very intelligent and well read author. His light touch but weighty contemplation reminds me of Proust and Walser. He is compared to Schulz but I think that's most likely due to their shared tragic deaths. This is a book of intrigues but it won't be off-putting to those that abhore such typical subjects because the writing is so skilled. The quality of Hungarian writers such as Krudy, Kostolanyi and Krasznahorkai are no longer a secret to the informed reader but it might be Szerb that tops them a ...more
Sam Schulman
Jan 15, 2010 Sam Schulman rated it it was amazing
Still reading, but if you read only one pretentiously titled and obscurely-middle-European-authored book this year, or perhaps in your life, it should be this small masterpiece by Szerb (killed in 1943), of whom I - I! - had never heard. To describe the plot - with world-weary Hungarian newlyweds on a honeymoon in 1930s Italy, memories of a beautiful brother-and-sister set of schoolfriends from Buda - or perhaps Pest - on the verge of incest, and with suicides, another schoolfriend who becomes a ...more
Laura
Apr 25, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
I loved this book, and Antal Szerb is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. The story itself is quite absurd, though mostly in a good way, but the real thing for me was the writing. It's beautiful, creates a fascinating atmosphere and every now and then, when you least expect it, you bump into some random sentence that cracks you up or is thought-provoking or otherwise impressive.

The feeling I got from this was somehow quite close to Daphne du Maurier's novels, though Szerb adds more hum
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Katri
Jul 09, 2009 Katri rated it it was amazing
I don't really have words for why I loved this book so much. There are a lot of things about it that I can see not appealing to people, but somehow I really adored it. The atmosphere is very strong and I love all the travelling in Europe and brooding about life and death and the displays of the author's huge cultural knowledge that don't come across as snobbish but just natural. Mihály is quite an antihero, but I can't help liking him - perhaps just more so because it's nice to for once read abo ...more
Justin Evans
Jul 10, 2015 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is very confusing--Szerb's book reminds me so much of the English novel* (of the ironic-E. M. Forster paradigm), but is just slightly off. This might have something to do with the problems of translation; the prose just isn't that crisp, and the gentle-irony thing does depend on the crisp prose thing. Other confusions include the deep religiosity ('spirituality', if you must), which is equally unlikely in the Forsterian world, and the marketing, which isn't Szerb's fault, but rest assured t ...more
Alan
Jun 18, 2014 Alan rated it it was amazing
I loved this elegant ride through a strange and haunting Italy as a man is separated from his wife (on honeymoon). Absorbing, dreamlike, wonderful, but unsettling too.
found this in my 2003 notebook: absorbed to the hilt by this Hungarian take on Italy during the 30s.. lovely, aching with indecision and love, eroticism, steeped in history
AC
Aug 01, 2015 AC rated it liked it
The actual novel is not as good as the cover art. The prose is in translationese, the plot artificial, the characters are somewhat cardboardish. Could have skipped this one. Finished more out of guilt than necessity.
Mark Broadhead
Sep 05, 2013 Mark Broadhead rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-novels
A wonderful novel. Do not be put off by the atrocious cover or the whimsical title. It is like Hamlet crossed with Kundera. Do not be put off by that atrocious comparison.
wayward cloud
Jun 04, 2015 wayward cloud rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, novela
Hace mucho tiempo que no leo algo tan oscuro. Es una novela sobre la muerte, sobre querer/aceptar morir, sobre cómo los muertos están presentes. Escrita por un judío humanista en el año 1936, en algún lugar de Europa. Trata sobre un húngaro burgués que huye de su mujer en plena luna de miel. Se dedica a vagar por Italia. ¿Por qué Italia? Porque está muriendo y porque se siente atraído a las formas en que los pueblos se relacionan con sus fantasmas.

Si la considero una gran novela es justamente p
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Marwan
Jan 06, 2015 Marwan rated it really liked it
الرواية تعد أحد أهم أعمال الكاتب المجرى الأصل أنتل صرب ( أو الصربى) و يالها من رواية صعبة فقد أخذت معى وقتا طويلا رغم أنها تعتبر متوسطة الطول .و هى تحكى قصة تدور لها على ثلاث محاور متداخلة و متشابكة قد تكون غير ملحوظة بوضوح إلا فى آخرها
المحور الأول كيف نحافظ على أسلوبنا فى الحياة و نحقق ما نريده نحن و ليس ما يريده المجتمع منا ؟ كيف نحافظ على أستقلاليتنا دون أن نؤذى غيرنا الذى يطالبنا على الدوام بما لا نهتم به إذ كيف تعيش منعزلا أنعزالا تاما عن المجتمع ,كيف تتجرد من الأفكار و القيم البرجوازية ؟
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Nóra Blaskovits
Feb 09, 2014 Nóra Blaskovits rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favourite books ever, and I’m pretty sad about it not being as renowned internationally as it deserves to be.

So, I really want to write this review hoping that it would get to more people eventually, but I’m only going to write what the novel is about, and I refuse to ruin it by trying to analyze it or find it’s meaning and put it into words. You know the semantical problem: a word is never able to reflect the true meaning of its denotation. Therefore if I ever try to put the m
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M.
Apr 06, 2013 M. rated it it was amazing

Schoolgirl Suicide Cult Forms around Forgotten Hungarian Classic! Okay, that is a little misleading, but the novel Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb is rumored to have pushed more than one weepy romantic coed over the edge. Unlike similar cultish works such as Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther and Plath’s The Bell Jar, Szerb’s novel is not actually about suicide, at least not in the literal sense. Its appeal is more cryptic and profound; lying in the narrator’s vacillation between the world’s
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Jim
Jan 31, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hungary, humor, fiction
Every January, I read books only by authors I have never before read. This month, the biggest surprise was my countryman Antal Szerb, whose Journey by Moonlight is a strange amalgam of depression and gentle irony.

Mihaly (Michael) and Erszi (Elizabeth) are on their honeymoon in Italy. Strange things keep happening. Mihaly's youth in Budapest keeps coming back to haunt him. When he steps off the train for a coffee at a station, he takes the wrong train, with him going to Perugia and Erszi to Rome
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Jean-Paul Walshaw-Sauter

"Even in those days old things attracted me more than new ones. For me the deepest truth was found only in things suffused with the life of many generations [...]"

The novel starts with Mihály and his wife, Erszi leaving Budapest for their honeymoon in Italy shortly after their precipitous wedding. They had been having an adulterous relationship for roughly a year, when Erszi suddenly decided to leave her husband and marry Mihály. No sooner have they arrived in Italy, than Mihály starts having mo
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Michalle Gould
Feb 08, 2016 Michalle Gould rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Totally unique and with a growing sense of melancholy. It made me think a bit of something Kundera talks about in Testaments Betrayed, how in Don Quixote a bunch of characters happen to come together in a tavern for no real reason but in contemporary fiction authors would feel they had to justify why they were there, that we have lost the freedom to just write random improbable coincidences into novels. I don't know if that's true (and TB was talking about contemporary fiction twenty years ago o ...more
Zayar
ဟနေဂရီစာေရးဆရာရဲ ေကာက စာအုပ
ဒါေပမယ ဖတရတာက အခုေခတမွာ ေရးထားသလိုပဲ
ဇာတလမးက honeymoon ထြကလာတဲ လငမယားမွာ အဓိကဇာတေကာငျဖစတဲ သူရဲ midlife crisisလိုပဲ ေျပာရမလား identityကို ရွာေဖြတဲ အေၾကာငး
အတိတနဲ ခြာမရတဲ ခမးနားတဲ အီတလီိုငငံကလဲ အဲလိုျဖစေအာင အေထာကအပံေပးေနတယ
ၿပီးေတာ သူစိတထဲမွာ မရွငးလငးေသးတဲ သူငယဘဝက သူငယခငးေတြနဲ အတိတ
ဝတၳဳဟာ သူဘာျဖစမလဲ အေျဖရွာေတြမွာလား societyနဲပဲ conformityျဖစေအာငေနသြားမွာလား အတိတနဲေကာ ရွငးလငးတဲ နားလညသေဘာေပါကမေတြရသြားမွာလား စတဲ ေမးခြနးမားစြာနဲ
ကၽြနေတာကို ဒီစာအုပဆီ စြဲေခၚလာတာက စာေရးဆရာရဲ စိတဝငစ
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Steve Petherbridge
Apr 05, 2014 Steve Petherbridge rated it liked it
Lost in translation. This book was hyped as belonging with the best literature. The Guardian - paperbacks of the year. Times Literary Supplement International books of the Year. Daily Telegraph. London Review of Books etc.i really did give this book a try, but, I believe that Len Rix's translation doesn't do it justice, resulting in a disjointed novel of a young man's running away from home seeking a truer understanding of himself. The English used and sentences, perhaps are a bit too literal. C ...more
Sarah Maguire
A little confused as to what to think about this book. Both it and the author get immense plaudits across the internet so I felt rather like the child in the story of emperor's new clothes. It's a good book, but quite how it was THAT good remains a mystery to me.
Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, there are wonderfully wry moments throughout, it drips irony betimes and the story carries you along (even though nothing much happens and there is definitely a mild flirtation with the
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Stephen
Nov 10, 2011 Stephen rated it really liked it
The story seems to focus on how our character traits determine our destiny. I was never surprised by the choices of any of the people inhabiting the book but yet kept reading to see what they would do next. And what Szerb does so well in this is maintain the reader’s sympathies for fairly schmucky people, especially the protagonist Mihaly. Much more spiritual than I expected it to be when I picked it up, and the author handles the subject magnificently. Coincidences are abound, though I never go ...more
BarbaraNathalie
Nov 02, 2011 BarbaraNathalie rated it it was amazing
At a time when Budapest is enamored with the idea of suicide, Antal Szerb puts an intriguing spin on the ideas that frequent the minds of adolescents and young adults. Mihaly is on his honeymoon with his wife whom he selected because she fit the bourgousie lifestyle he is required to live.
He has many fears, and the most intense fear is that of living a life he doesn't want to live.
He inadverdantly loses his wife and heads into a downward spiral while trying to repeat his lost youth. There are so
...more
Þróndr
In the blurb this is described as "the consummate European novel of the inter-war period" – and it really is. The novel opens with a quote from Villon: "Mutinously I submit to the claims of law and order. What will happen? I wait for my journey's wages. In a world that accepts and rejects me."
We meet Mihály and Erszi on their honeymoon, and we are quickly led to understand that there is at least a little bit of tension in the air: "On the train, everything seemed fine. The trouble began in Venic
...more
Kathleen
Aug 02, 2015 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
"And while there is life there is always the chance that something might happen..."
Clova
Feb 14, 2015 Clova rated it it was ok
I am very surprised to say that I just didnt like this book. All criticism and reviews would indicate that this would be the sort of book I would like. But I just didnt enjoy reading it at all and had to force myself to finish it. Of course it is well written. I think there are a few reasons why I struggled where others have not. Mihaly, the main character, reminds me of a few people I have met in life who I really do not like. They go around offending people, having no regard for them, because ...more
Parrish Lantern
“ON THE TRAIN everything seemed fine. The trouble began in Venice, with the back alleys.” This is our introduction to Mihaly a Hungarian businessman on his honeymoon in Venice. Mihaly has married his wife Erzi to escape from an adolescent rebellious nature and into the arms of conformity, part of the problem faced is his newly wed bride has married him as an attempt to escape the bourgeois conformity of her life prior to meeting him. As stated in the opening lines, the trouble began with those a ...more
arcobaleno
Questo libro non è più nella mia libreria. Mi permetto di copiare qui il commento, molto più convincente e appassionato del mio, dell'aNobiana Rosella1812.

PREFAZIONE. Consigliatomi caldamente da un'amica ungherese, la quale afferma che nel suo paese questo romanzo è un cult, e che moltissimi connazionali sono partiti alla scoperta dell'Italia seguendo le tracce del protagonista, IL VIAGGIATORE... mi è arrivato per posta, come prestito-regalo, da un'anobiiana dall'animo gentile e disinteressato!
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NYRB Classics: Journey by Moonlight, by Antal Szerb 13 58 Jan 22, 2015 07:50PM  
  • They Were Counted
  • Kornél Esti
  • A Journey Round My Skull
  • Egyperces novellák
  • Sunflower
  • Abigél
  • A Book of Memories
  • Tranquility
  • The Tragedy of Man
  • Iskola a határon
  • Be Faithful Unto Death
  • Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948
  • The Book Of Fathers
  • Metropole
  • War & War
  • My Happy Days In Hell
  • Celestial Harmonies
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Szerb was born in 1901 to assimilated Jewish parents in Budapest, but baptized Catholic. He studied Hungarian, German and later English, obtaining a doctorate in 1924. From 1924 to 1929 he lived in France and Italy, also spending a year in London, England.
As a student he published essays on Georg Trakl and Stefan George, and quickly established a formidable reputation as a scholar, writing erudite
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“In London November isn't a month, it's a state of mind.” 21 likes
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