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Journey by Moonlight

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,463 ratings  ·  123 reviews
"No one who has read it has failed to love it."—Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

"Szerb belongs with the master novelists of the twentieth century."—Paul Bailey, Daily Telegraph

ANXIOUS TO PLEASE his bourgeois father, Mihaly has joined the family firm in Budapest. Pursued by nostalgia for his bohemian youth, he seeks escape in marriage to Erzsi, not realising that she has chosen hi
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Pushkin Press (first published 1937)
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Embers by Sándor MáraiFatelessness by Imre KertészThe Paul Street Boys by Ferenc MolnárJourney by Moonlight by Antal SzerbSkylark by Dezső Kosztolányi
20th Century Hungarian Literature
4th out of 117 books — 91 voters
Juliet by Anne FortierThe Da Vinci Code by Dan BrownAngels & Demons by Dan BrownThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoRomeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Italian Fiction
44th out of 111 books — 90 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
This is the sort of book I 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
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
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
Chuck LoPresti
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
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
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
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
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
Mark Broadhead
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.
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
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
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 ؟
Steve Petherbridge
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
Nóra Blaskovits
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

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
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
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!
I’m always up for trying something new, and Journey by Moonlight was my first taste of Hungarian literature. I must admit that it was the cover of the lovely Pushkin Press edition that attracted my attention when I saw this book in the charity shop, but the description of the story – and especially the words “darkly funny” – piqued my interest.

This novel certainly has its darkly comic moments, and it was both atmospheric and elegant. Mihály’s trip across Italy seemed so dreamlike and full of biz
Bob Wait

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb (translated by Len Rix)

Clearly there is a wide range of feelings about this book and that is the conversation I would most like to have: what cultural or experiential differences make this book enlightening for some and mystifying to others (such as myself). Some reviewers frankly stated that while they enjoyed the story, it was difficult to convey what they liked about it. Some of you reviewers might tell me not to fret too much about the meaning and just sit
Larry Tysome
I am profoundly grateful for having been given this book otherwise I might never have encountered it. I found it a thoroughly engrossing book whilst at the same time becoming lost, from time to time, as to what was going on and why. The whole premise of the book requires some suspension of disbelief - that a newly married man can lose (or leave?) his wife at a railway station, although we all know the possibilities for getting on the wrong train at a busy station, as well as for a man to suddenl ...more

Erzsi und Mihály sind auf Hochzeitsreise, doch dann steigt Mihály mehr oder weniger aus Versehen in den falschen Zug und ihre Wege trennen sich. Während Erzsi nach Paris fährt, begibt Mihály sich auf die Suche nach seiner Vergangenheit, von der er sich nie ganz lösen konnte...

Meine Meinung:

Wow - das war krass! Nachdem ich "Die Pendragon-Legende" von Antal Szerb so gut fand, freute ich mich auch auf "Reise im Mondlicht". Ich erwartete nicht, dass dieses Buch genauso gut sein würde, wie das
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
Mihaly is the most feckless, reprehensible anit-hero. He absolutely refuses to grow up; his techniques for coping with the demands and challenges of adult life are to panic, sulk, or run away. And yet, how likeable he is! How easy to relate to. The reader, like the other characters in the book, is charmed by him, wants to indulge him: and wants also to be drawn by him into his seductive world of fantasy, where dreams, feelings and imaginings are far more important and compelling than real life. ...more
This is the best book I've read in years, definitely one of the best ever. It's about one travel from Budapest throughout Italy, about one's travel from adolescence throughout life. Unhurried winding narrative brings to memory Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time".
peculiarly modern despite its setting. the atmosphere is musky - and all the places the protagonist travels to and people he meets brim with longing. if only life were so uncompromisingly passionate.
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
Madness, Budapest, wanderings, Venetian alleyways, lost loves, decadence, despair - everything a lonely young bohemienne could want in a novel! Bizarre and thoroughly Hungarian.
It's just like a long walk in an impressionist's painting.
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NYRB Classics: Journey by Moonlight, by Antal Szerb 13 54 Jan 22, 2015 07:50PM  
  • The Door
  • Kornél Esti
  • They Were Counted
  • A Journey Round My Skull
  • Egyperces novellák
  • Sunflower
  • Tranquility
  • A Book of Memories
  • War and War
  • Celestial Harmonies
  • Metropole
  • Be Faithful Unto Death
  • Iskola a határon
  • My Happy Days In Hell
  • La mujer justa
  • Szent Péter esernyője
  • The Tragedy of Man
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
More about Antal Szerb...
The Pendragon Legend Oliver VII The Queen's Necklace Love in a Bottle A Vilagirodalom tortenete

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