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They Were Counted (The Transylvania Trilogy #1)

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  287 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Painting an unrivalled portrait of the vanished world of pre-1914 Hungary, this story is told through the eyes of two young Transylvanian cousins, Count Balint Abády and Count László Gyeroffy. Shooting parties in great country houses, turbulent scenes in parliament, and the luxury of life in Budapest provide the backdrop for this gripping, prescient novel, forming a chilli ...more
Paperback, 596 pages
Published August 7th 2008 by Arcadia Books (first published 1934)
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Community Reviews

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This is review of the Transylvania Trilogy, also known as The Writing of the Wall, and I am posting this in each volume. The trilogy is composed of:

They Were Counted
They Were Found Wanting
They Were Divided

These titles are taken from the Book of Daniel, from the Belshazzar’s Feast, when a hand appeared and wrote on the wall:

God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; your kingdom is divided and given to your enemies.
The best description of the novel and of the trilogy so far at least is Gone with the Wind of the Hungarian Empire; this description of an unjust and oppressive world on the brink of being swept away from history, but you still cannot stop but turn the pages, empathize with Balint Abady and his pathetic tries to improve things (laughed at both by his peers and by the representatives of the oppressed for different reasons of course) or with his love for the unhappily married Adrienne, while follo ...more
Life in early 1900s Hungary and Romania are dramatically portrayed through the lives of 2 cousins, Balint Abady and Laszlo Gyeroffy. While born to aristocracy, Balint is compassionate, somewhat naive and finds himself in a doomed relationship with a married woman. Laszlo is musically gifted and a tortured soul. Written with dazzling detail, it took me a while to get through all names and descriptions of characters in the first chapter. The dazzling balls, shooting parties, and elaborate dinners ...more
‘Los días contados’ de Miklós Bánffy es un novelón de esos que me gustan tanto a mí, de esos con regusto a clásico decimonónico, con duelos, adulterio, algunas chismosas a las que les encanta propagar rumores, un cazafortunas, personajes que se endeudan hasta las cejas por culpa del juego, etc. Bánffy fue un escritor y político de origen aristocrático perteneciente a la minoría húngara que habitaba en Transilvania, un territorio que ahora forma parte de Rumanía, y es éste ambiente, que tan bien ...more
Elijah Spector
Are 5 stars correct, or fair? I'm not sure. But I know that I was extremely into this book, and that having finished it not five minutes ago, it feels right. So there we are. It may be a bad idea, however, to give this a perfect review for the same reason that it often is to do the same for the first volume of a fantasy series -- it's not the whole story. To see a real review, you might be better served to read the multitudinous status updates that I did while reading the book, they'll show how ...more
Xara Niouraki
They Were Counted describes the story of two Transylvanian upper class cousins Balint Abady and Laszlo Gyeroffy. The two characters are opposites but have things in common as well. Abady is responsible, is driven by honor and believes that the upper class should take care the lower classes, as they are illiterate and don't know how to help themselves. Laszlo cares only about himself, drinks, gambles and is totally indifferent about the reality of his country. Both of them really live in a world ...more
Banffy may not have been in the running for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but he would have been a contender for ‘How much foolish and self-destructive behavior can you squeeze into 600 pages?’. It’s interesting to me that almost every page contains echoes of other readings from the period: the legacy of Victorian repression, Belle Epoque indulgence, and looming crisis.

As in The Late Mattia Pascal, by Pirandello and published just a year before the end of this work (which I just finished), we
I want to save a full review for the final volume of the Transylvanian Trilogy (I started reading book two right away); but just to be clear, They Were Counted was just phenomenal. Reading it, I felt like I did when I saw Chekhov's Three Sisters for the first time--all of the ambition and craft of a consensus English-class masterpiece, but also bracingly personal and contemporary. I didn't feel like I was eating my vegetables, I felt like I was invited into a whole new world, as evocative and ab ...more
Javier de la Peña Ontanaya
Primera novela de la 'Trilogía transilvana'. Una novela muy interesante, ambientada en la Hungría de comienzos de siglo XX, las pugnas entre Budapest, Viena y Transilvania. Refleja muy bien la sociedad de la época, los problemas políticos del Imperio de Austria-Hungría y diferentes personajes dentro de la misma sociedad elitista. Dos personajes llevan el peso central de la obra, Bálint Abády, y su primo Laszlo Gyeroffy, muy distintos, pero unidos por ese romanticismo clásico del siglo XVIII-XIX. ...more
I'm not sure how to write about this book. I really liked it. It's the first in a trilogy and the story is definitely not finished, so I'll be able to think about it better once I've read all three.

It's not what I expected. I started out thinking it was something like a Hungarian Jane Austen book -- balls, duels, etc. But soon realized it reminded me more of Tolstoy. By the end I kept thinking of Romeo and Juliet. Not a happy ending -- but it's a more complicated than to say it's a simple traged
Chuck LoPresti
I'll never forget this book. Absolutely engaging read - yet the story is a bit uneven and obvious at points. There's a bit of a lack of elegance in the translation but the prose is still delightful and afterall - if it hasn't been translated from Hungarian by Szirtes - it's only going to be an approximation of the original. More like Stendhal than Proust this complex courtly tale is more interpersonal than introspective and historical than reflective. Where Proust was concerned with how and even ...more
I suppose the greatest question one can ask after finishing the first of a trilogy, is do i want to read the others? and the answer in the case of 'They Were Counted is a resounding yes! To any fan of Bourgeois central european writing, This really is a must read. it has everything one would want, incredibly rich luxurious writing, a raft of interesting, lovable and grotesque characters, beautiful locations, dashing gentlemen and sensual ladies. The host of sub-plots is exhaustive and always ent ...more
I would have rated this a five star, merely for educating me on the Transylvanian history and offering a different perspective on the Hapsburg empire.
But the novel seems so utterly focused on foolhardy decisions, on wasted, self indulgent young men who rarely do anything of value, that it became tedious to go through. If Banffy was trying to criticise his country-men as being unclear, unfocused and uninspired people, he came out a success. But if he intended to do only that, it seems a highly bi
Possibly the last word in pre-Freudian boy-meets-girl books. Six hundred pages--and it's only volume one of a trilogy. "A" for effort; "B-" for translation and sheer ponderousness.

It was billed as one of those enjoyable Mittleuropa tragicomedies, where characters go from fancy dress balls, to shooting parties, to horse races, all while the Austro-Hungarian Empire burns to the ground. The parties were there, but since it's only 1906, perhaps the fire is in book two or three. Descriptions are bea
My very first review on a book in English.

Bánffy Miklós was totally unknown to me and thank god for twitter this brilliant writer came up on my feed like a miracle.

As I’m also Hungarian, I was quite surprised how little I knew about Bánffy. He is, I must say, quite unknown here. Which is very sad...

After finishing the first part of his grandiose trilogy, I must say that this story deserves to be on the list with the big classic Russians.

The main characters, Abády Bálint and Gyerőffy László, wer
Jonathan yates
This book rules, i'm so excited to read the next one, it's all about loving the ladies and duels and drinking and balls and making out in the woods
and it's also a really well done portrait of a failing culture that really captures
a feeling and a culture that is really important to all of modern history....
Sharon Grosh
I am reading Volume II without any lapse in time. This is not Gone With The Wind in Hungary. It is an amazing book. I will review all three at once. Spectacular literature and cinematic descriptions of this amazing part of the world.
Love and politics are the theme of this extraordinary Hungarian novel, set in the first decade of the 20th century.

The novel features a large cast of characters but essentially follows the differing fortunes of two young aristocratic cousins from what was, at the time, Hungarian Transylvania. The first, Balint Abady, is a Independent Member of the Hungarian Parliament, of liberal inclinations, in love with a woman unhappily married to someone else. The other, Laszlo Gyeroffy, is a talented music
Easily one of the best books I’ve read in recent memory (this and the following volume). The writing is incredible, the scenes are lush, the characters are deep and well formed – in every way this book is worth increased attention. This first volume really sets the stage for the following two books – compiled into one volume by the publisher – and there is a lot to be put in place. Numerous characters, back stories, setting, intrigues are all introduced, and yet I never found myself confused or ...more
Anna A.
An absolutely DAZZLING panorama of pre-WWI life in Transylvania, through a story of love, politics, and high-life machinations.

I've never been so at loss of words for describing a book. Although, as a cosmopolitan that I am, I rarely nurture such feelings, I'm terribly proud to be a Hungarian, just like this author, and to live where I live, in the county where a large part of this plot takes place.

Bánffy was a true polyhistor, one of the last ones perhaps. He's perfectly at ease in every subjec
Imagine an entire nation overflowing with people who completely and totally misunderstand everyone else around them. No matter what you say it will be interpreted in the worst possible way and absolutely counter to what you really meant. On top of that, add in the fact that should you try to be serious about something, should you try to get a point across to a large group or attempt to 'better' a situation that seems out of control or corrupt, you are immediately teased, poked fun of, laughed at ...more
The Transylvanian Trilogy offers a beautiful portrait of aristocratic life in Hungary, but mostly the province of Tranylvania itself, over the decade preceding the First World War.

The story focuses on a romantic relationship that spans this time, while offering a full cast of supporting characters and stories that typify the people of the period. In some sense this is mostly a characterization of aristocrats, but with some involvement of more common folk, albeit very little of the peasant class
I was so happy, when I started reading this book and in the most important - to me - aspect it didn't fail: it gives a vivid account of Austria-Hungary at the turn of the century. With the elite arguing among themselves, oblivious to the events on the big European scene. It's such a pivotal period in European history; the events leading up to 1. world war, which - broadly - re-defined the national borders as they are today.
However, I was less impressed with Banffy's creation of characters. Bali
This book is the first in the Trilogy Banffy wrote about his native Transylvania, the 'land across the forest' so different from the Dracula legends. It is a profound and wonderful work that follows the character of Balint as he reckons with the changes in city (Budapest) and countryside in Hungary and Transylvania at the turn of the last century. It has much in common with Proust's Remembrances, with Musil's Man Without Qualities and with Tolstoy's writings about the peasants of Russia. The fir ...more
The Transylvanian "War and Peace". Banffy somehow infuses Hungarian politics and banking with as much excitement as the hunting, gambling, and love scenes throughout. The alternating focus on the two cousins does not slow the momentum. The characters are all over dramatized and rigid but still come across as genuine.
Apparently this book is a classic of Hungarian literature, set in the first decade of the 20th century. One of the main characters is a member of the Parliament in Budapest, and the other is his cousin, who ends up being more or less by society. However, *I* loved it for the perspective it provided of the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, since most of what I'm familiar with focuses on the Austrian side of things. In addition to this, there were politics, courtly (and non-courtly) love, plenty ...more
An epic masterpiece that deserves a far more central place in the canon of classic novels. It is a vast panorama of the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, alive with a cast of characters conjured with much psychological and political insight, engaged in a tragic drama of truly grand proportions. The erudite, even-paced narration is like an engaging symphony, a close equivalent to the works of Leo Tolstoy or Thomas Mann.
Karen Sweet
Must read. Fabulous story set in pre-World War I. Based primarily in Transylvania. How many books can say that?
Banffy is sometimes referred to as the Hungarian Tolstoy. Having recently reread War and Peace, I can see the similarities, and the differences as well. Banffy covers similar ground as the aristocratic families discuss politics while partaking in duels, love affairs, drinking, gambling and the betterment of the peasants they paternalistically care for under the mantle of noblesse oblige. Unlike Tolstoy, Banffy relates historical events unfolding inexorably towards the nightmare of World War I wi ...more
Set in Hungary before WWI, this three-volume saga combines the best of Trollope, Proust, Tolstoy, and Milan Kundera. The descriptions of the Hungarian countryside in summer are reminiscent of Tolstoy, the descriptions of the Hungarian Parliament are reminiscent of Trollope's Phineas Finn, the descriptions of the Transylvanian mountain villages in winter are reminiscent of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and the unreality of Hungarians at play in Venice is, oddly, Proustian. Only recently tran ...more
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Count Miklós Bánffy de Losoncz (30 December 1873—June 5, 1950) was a Hungarian nobleman, politician, and novelist. His books include The Transylvanian Trilogy (They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting and They Were Divided), and The Phoenix Land.

The Bánffy family emerged in 15th century Transylvania and established itself among the foremost dynasties of the country. They owned a grand palace in
More about Miklós Bánffy...

Other Books in the Series

The Transylvania Trilogy (3 books)
  • They Were Found Wanting
  • They Were Divided
They Were Found Wanting They Were Divided The Transylvanian Trilogy, Volumes II & III: They Were Found Wanting, They Were Divided The Phoenix Land Un om neliniștit

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