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They Were Counted (The Transylvania Trilogy #1)

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4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  240 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Paints an unrivalled portrait of the vanished world of pre-1914 Hungary, as seen through the eyes of two young aristocratic Transylvanian cousins.
Paperback, 624 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Arcadia Books (first published 1934)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,435)
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Kalliope
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.
...more
Liviu
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
Núria
‘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
Caroline
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
Caroline
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
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Elijah Kinch 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
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
Luis
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
Nooilforpacifists
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
...more
Kitti
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
...more
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....
awesome
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.
Ian
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
...more
Iwokeinrelief
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
Dan
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
Murray
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
...more
Stine
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
...more
Debra
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
Anne
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
Jakob
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.
Lynn
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
Kim
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
Pastor Ben
Not a lark.... there is darkness in this book.

and the names are difficult.... good luck trying to pronounce Hungarian in your head.

but I enjoyed the book and want to find out what happens.... this will be no fairy-tale. But it's possible that in the midst of social collapse character will become strong in the lives of at least some of these characters.

The question that pervades the book, I think, is "what does one do after the unchangeable?" There is no easy redemption for these characters. But
...more
Jfriera
Estupenda novela, con una trama que hubiera servido para al menos tres películas de Visconti. Aparte de tratarse de una descripción vívida de la Hungría de los inicios del siglo XX y en particular de la Transilvania húngara.

Por supuesto para amantes de la literatura centroeuropea de Roth o Zweig, pero que también entronca con las grandes novelas del XIX como El rojo y el negro, La cartuja de Parma, La educación sentimental o Anna Karenina por mencionar algunas que me han venido a la cabeza.
Caroline
I chose to read this because I was traveling to Transylvania. It is a translation from Hungarian. I loved the love stories although they were a bit tedious. Some of the politics was boring because I had no background in that period of history. The costume balls were delightful. It does have a similarity to Tolstoy or even Gone With the Wind. I was sorry to have it come to an end. But it is part of a trilogy so there is more.
Janesivocha
I deeply enjoyed this book - part one of the trilogy - and luckily have the other two to go at. I felt for these people and, with one exception, liked them all. I would have loved to see this part of the world in the Mitteleuropa heyday years before the first world war. Its easy to see why Patrick Leigh Fermor fell in love with the area and the people (Between The Woods And The Water) and I thank him for the recommendation!!
Christopher
This 600-pager reminded me a lot of The Fountainhead. I think it probably has to do with the few scenes depicting nature as a place of truth, beauty and strength.

I haven't read Tolstoy, so I can't vouch for Banffy's similarity to him, but I enjoyed the portrayal of society life in the early 20th in Transylvania and other places I've wandered once or twice.





☯Bettie☯
Mar 06, 2014 ☯Bettie☯ marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Carey Combe
perth

Opening: The radiant afternoon sunlight of early September was so brilliant that it still seemed like summer.
Susan Zinner
Compelling mixture of Romanian history with an emphasis on political intrigue, romance, history, gambling, cards, etc. Really fascinating look at an era about which I knew nothing. I plan to read the other two books in this trilogy in the future.
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