Ferenc Karinthy
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Epepe (Karinthy Ferenc Muvei)

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  557 ratings  ·  109 reviews
A linguist flying to a conference in Helsinki has landed in a strange city where he can't understand a word anyone says.

As one claustrophobic day follows another, he wonders why no one has found him yet, whether his wife has given him up for dead, and how he'll get by in this society that looks so familiar, yet is so strange.

In a vision of hell unlike any previously imagin...more
Published (first published 1970)
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I didn't like Metropole, but I expected to. The reviews I'd read around here said it was excellent. The quotes on the front and back covers raved (even going so far as to compare it to Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Trial).

There were times when I nearly quit reading, then some tiny moment recaptured my attention (sometimes a quite good moment, but most times a moment that pissed me off), so I toughed it out. I am suppose I am glad I did, but I don't recommend it even though I can't embrace hating...more
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This review might've easily become a tirade about how valuable my time is. But then screaming as much onto the internet to no one in particular struck me as ironic. And, let's face it, my time really isn't that valuable.

Okay so, this seemed like a no-brainer, a book starred for inclusion in my personal cannon. Plot: A linguist, Budai, gets dropped at Ground Zero of the Tower of Babel (figuratively, probably, though there are signs that the author might've meant it literally too i.e. the suspicio...more
Luke Roberts
Metropole is the story of Budai, who finds himself in a city alien to him, it is a sea of constant traffic and people, the citizens busy, rude and all speaking an indecipherable language.
The writing succeeded in making me feel as trapped as Budai from the first chapter. All avenues of hope are seemingly blocked for him, the way he is hustled from one queue to another by the constant mass of people in the city, only to be waved away and left confused when finally reaching the front, is one of Bud...more
"At the beginning of Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler there is a passage on the various types of books we meet in our lives, such as those we haven’t read, those we needn’t read, and those we plan to read. One of the more obscure categories is books that fill you with sudden, inexplicable curiosity, not easily justified, and it’s to this category that I assign Ferenc Karinthy’s Metropole (1970), published in English for the first time. Well, perhaps not inexplicable, as its stra...more
Never fall asleep on a plane to Helsinki. Budai does so en route to a linguistics conference and, by the end of the first page, finds himself in an unknown city whose teeming inhabitants speak an unknown language written in an unknown script. Unable to communicate and continuously ignored, Budai tries to make sense of his circumstances and find some way out. But the city is dreamlike, a nightmare, and apparently endless. Given that the novel was first published in Hungary in 1970, Metropole may...more
didn't get into it. could've been me though. read this on jury duty, which might have contributed to my reaction. waiting for that particular bureaucracy to punish or reward you is probably the second worst situation in which to confront this book. traveling being probably the topper. though best could be swapped for worst in that sentence. made me realize that the description, "like kafka," isn't really a great thing.

a probably unfair comparison--but as far as immigrant hell, THE ARRIVAL by sha...more
This is a poor attempt to follow in Kafka's existential footsteps simply because the level of alienation Budai feels is too extreme. In 'The Outsider', Mersault is still within the confines of normal society but personally feels distant and ambivalent towards it. In 'The Trial', Jospeph K. has to deal with an intransigent, bureaucratic legal system but at least they speak the same language.

This cannot be said of Metropole where the alienation soon grows repetitive and boring and whilst one can s...more
I loved loved loved this book. The kind of book that you can read and not really "get" the underlying meaning of until long after. It's been at least a month or two since I finished reading it and I still can't stop thinking about it. Truly one of the few really deeply emotionally moving books I've read, and it didn't even make much sense to me when I read it.
Jamie Rose
I just staggered to the end of Ferenc Karinthy's novel Metropole. It's about a linguist called Budai, en-route to Helsinki, who somehow ends up in a nameless, nightmarish city, unable to communicate with anyone around him. Where is he? And why? Food tastes different; the dialects are all wrong; the streets are constantly packed; meanings and names and faces shift and change...The book mixes suspense, horror and farce to great effect, always knocking you slightly off-centre with facts that don't...more
In Ferenc Karinthy’s dystopian novel, Metropole, the protagonist, Budai, a Hungarian linguist traveling to Helsinki for a conference, inexplicably finds himself in a sprawling city overcrowded with people who can neither speak nor understand any languages known to him. Everything around Budai – the signs on the street, the smell and taste of food, the ubiquitous presence of endless queues at nearly every establishment – is foreign and perplexing to him. In fact, nothing around Budai seems to sug...more
Budai, a Hungarian linguist, is on his way to a conference in Helsinki. However, he somehow boards the wrong connecting flight and finds himself in a strange city where he can't understand a word anyone says. What will Budai do?

Metropole is a study of the absurd. The premise, I have to admit, is interesting. As a linguist myself, I find the book well-researched, thinking to myself that I probably would also do the things that Budai did, given his capacity as a linguist. He supposedly speaks seve...more
Alan Marchant
Fable of Babel

Metropole, by Hungarian Ferenc Karinthy, is a secular retelling of Genesis 11.

The protagonist, Budai, is a linguist who awakens in an unidentifiable metropolis where all language is unintelligible. The society does not require communication from a populace that stays on task and (literally) in line.

Budai is recognizable as a Kafka character: ostensibly sophisticated, but self-absorbed to the point of helplessness. He serves merely as a tracer for a cyclic social process of regimen...more
Terrence Paris
I had previously read a synopsis of this book and it appealed to me as a book worth reading for a couple of reasons. It reminded me of unpleasant dreams where I've tried to accomplish a task or arrive at a destination, but I've encountered obstacles at very turn. Also, I'm reminded of those times when I've got lost in a large foreign city, traveled in the wrong direction while on public transportation or been diverted to a different airport from the one at which I intended to land. Budai, the pr...more
This is one the most contemporary, chilling and visionary books that I have read. Think of Orwell's and Huxley's dystopian views, at to these a touch of urbanism and then mix them all up with "Children of Men","12 Monkeys", "The Fifth Element".

What do you get? Metropole.

The main character, a linguists, gets caught in a context he cannot decode: a densely packed multiracial city where no one speaks the same language, where armed revolutions spring, are suppressed, and are erased from history at...more
First of all, for full disclosure I should say that I ended up skimming a fairly large portion at the end of this book.

For me, when they say the book is Kafka-esque, I don't think that's really a good thing. At first the ever present feeling of rising panic and irritation was novel and interesting and then about 75 pages in, it was just plain irritating.

The writing was excellent, and the idea was interesting, just got a little old, even in a small-ish book.
David Logan
I'm not keen on translations because I'm sure they lose something.
In English, this read smoothly nonetheless. It's an Eastern European,
1984-like story by a writer who probably started out without knowing
how to conclude. Suffers from almost total absence of dialogue.
Readers who like nice, wrapped-up conclusions, all questions answered,
will hate it. Readers who like to be made to think will be ... made to think.
Quite a unique and interesting premise, though I flipped through bits of it as the story is inherently tedious. One gets a little bored of Budai's obstacles and issues in the hellish unknown, but I did find myself visualizing the story and being engaged especially in the beginning. I wonder how apt the translation is from the Hungarian..

Una completa pesadilla, angustiante y extraordinaria.
Unsettling & compelling
Well then..... I have to say that having finished reading Metropole a few days ago, and having thought long and hard about it, I will still struggle to explain just what happens. Thankfully I think this confusion is the point so I'm not left feeling too stuupid..... after all if Budai, the central character (and the only character to actually have a fixed name), can go through the whole story without having a clue what is happening then so can I.

Budai is a, presumably Hungarian, linguist on his...more
If you've ever been in a foreign country where you don't know the language you'll know that it's an uncomfortable situation. Luckily with modern technology and the rise of international franchises around the world it's hard to be completely cut off from things you're familiar with. What if you ended up in a country where you had no points of reference though, and where anything but the simplest hand gestures inspired confusion? It would be terrifying even if you were perfectly safe. That's the t...more
I don't think I'm really sophisticated enough for this.

Narrator is a linguist who gets lost in a mysterious city on his way to a linguistics conference. Nobody speaks his language in the mysterious city; in fact, nobody can speak any language he recognises at all. The book follows his attempts to figure out wtf is going on and get back on a plane to his wife, son, conference, etc.

You'd think this would be great - linguist tries to figure out incomprehensible new language! Being lost in a strange...more
Mason Jones
Published here in 2008, this is the first English translation of Metropole, and in fact the first book by Karinthy in English. For some reason nothing indicates when it was written, but Karinthy passed away in 1992 so it was obviously before that. In any case, this Hungarian book goes on the shelf next to Kafka, Ballard and other authors of the sub-genre "people lost in a metaphorical maze". Here, our hero Budai accidentally gets on the wrong plane, falls asleep, and wakes after arriving in a st...more
Any number of modern, nightmarish novels are given the epithet of 'Kafkaesque', but most contemporary writers pale in comparison to the truly disturbing, oppressive, claustrophic and dark fiction of Kafka himself.

Well, in the modern Hungarian, Ferenc Karinthy (himself the son of a famous Hungarian satirist/novelist/journalist) and his novel, Metropole, you find a truly worthy successor to Kafka, not only for his most famous work, The Trial (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature), but also - fo...more
Kafkaesque tale of a man who man who catches the wrong plane and ends up in a city the location and even the name of which he is not able to determine. Going with the flow of crowds he is at least able to travel to a hotel, book a room and change money, but the agony of his frustration is that he can find no one who can speak a word of any language he knows - and he knows a lot - and cannot understand a word or decipher any part of the strange text the people write in.

But it is a modern, Europea...more
This novel of a Hungarian linguist whose trip to a conference in Helsinki turns into exile in a city suggestive of Babel is usually called Kafkaesque but had two quite different resonances for me (in addition to the obvious Kafka comparison).

It most strongly reminded me of old stories of my own--some finished, some not--which really made the book quite unsettling in a way not intended by the author. I never wrote anything with precisely this story-line (had that been the case, it would have bee...more
Harry Rutherford
Metropole, by Ferenc Karinthy, was published in Hungarian in 1970. This translation, by George Szirtes, was published last year. The blurb on the back from G.O. Châteaureynaud says

With time, Metropole will find its due place in the twentieth-century library, on the same shelf as The Trial and 1984.

which gives you an idea of the general literary area we’re in. It’s the story of Budai, a linguist who gets on the wrong plane and finds himself in a strange city. He gradually realises he is trapped t...more
Russell George

A ‘difficult’ Eastern European, dystopian novel. The scenario is absolutely chilling: a middle aged academic falls asleep on a plane on his way to a Linguistics conference and finds himself in the wrong country. It’s all surreally plausible. He’s tired, is bussed, slightly bewildered, to a hotel where somehow he finds himself checking in. He can’t understand a word anyone says, and everyone is pushing and shoving – the city is continually hostile in an anonymously normal way.
The sense of isolati...more
Kimberly Ann
I really liked this book and recommend it. At first I was afraid the main character's time in the strange urban area where he couldn't understand anything would eventually wear on me, but the author made it interesting and even at times nerve-wracking and others thrilling. KINDA SPOILERS: I almost wanted the book to go on, to find more out about what happened to the main character after the book ended. LIKE, it ended kind of open-ended-y, but there was some peace/closure in a way. Even if what t...more
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Ferenc Karinthy was a novelist, playwright, journalist, editor and translator, as well as a water polo champion. He authored more than a dozen novels. "Epepe" ("Metropole") is the first of Karinthy's novels to be translated into English.

Karinthy worked as a script editor for Nemzeti Színház and Madách Theatre, as well as theatres in Miskolc, Szeged and Debrecen. Between 1957 and 1960, Karinthy tra...more
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