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Extraordinary Renditions

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  102 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Set in Budapest—a city marked by its rich cultural heritage, the scars of empire, the fresher wounds of industry, and the collateral damage of globalism—Extraordinary Renditions is the sweeping story of three equally tarnished expatriates. World-renowned composer and Holocaust survivor Lajos Harkályi has returned to Hungary to debut his final opera and share his mother's p ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Coffee House Press
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Andrew Smith
Jan 06, 2015 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it

Extraordinary Rendition = transfer – without legal process – of a detainee to the custody of a foreign government for purposes of detention and interrogation.


Extraordinary Rendition = a very unusual or remarkable performance or interpretation of a dramatic role or piece of music.

And, as far as this book goes, the answer is… both.

Three novellas linked (in the way of The Wonder Garden) through their location – here it’s the city of Budapest – and with characters that appear in more than one st
Sep 14, 2012 Lee rated it it was amazing
Flowing and surprisingly bold/powerful trio of interlinked novellas set in Budapest. Not at all a novelistic travelogue. Author does a remarkable job transposing his ex-pat perceptions into the lives of characters unlike each other or the author, each brought to life thanks to forward-flowing stories. Was a little worried at first thanks to the epigram and the first novella's focus that this might be a bit too "literary" for me, but the perception and the pace that animate these characters engag ...more
Jan 03, 2015 Stacia rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe, 2015
4.5 stars.

Whether it's a novel or three separate, but interrelated, novellas, it is wonderfully done. Ervin paints a palpable Budapest where I can feel the dry, freezing air, smell the cigarettes, hear the crowds, see the graffiti.... He touches on some big themes too (the Holocaust, racism, the disconnectness of being an expat, corruption, the power of music, imperialism, ...) but with a light enough hand that you can still feel a ray of hope amidst such heavy topics.

The triptych of stories int
Terri Jacobson
Aug 29, 2015 Terri Jacobson rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Extraordinary Renditions is a collection of 3 long, interconnected stories taking place in Budapest, Hungary. I'm intensely interested in the recent history of the Balkans, and that's one of the reasons I like this book so much.

The first story is about Lajos Harkályi. Harkályi is a successful composer of music near the end of his life. His is about to debut his final opera, The Golden Lotus, in his native Hungary. As a young boy, Harkályi was sent to Terezin, a "model" concentration camp set up
Sep 04, 2010 Jasmine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american
I have lots of interesting insightful things to say about this book instead I am going to go drink several margaritas and come back drunk and replace them with simplistic rambling till then enjoy my stars.


welcome to the first review I've done too out of it to actually create a reasonable sentence. In fact I saw a roommate of mine going down the stairs when I was coming in, then he came back up (which was weird) and I looked stupid trying to open the door. but this is irreleva
Jun 01, 2010 Daisy rated it really liked it
Library copy. Worth owning.
I love the title. And the cover photograph. But that's not all. Budapest is palpable.

The first section sets the book up nicely, lands you in Budapest with a Hungarian composer who's come back for the first time in four decades for a performance of his final opera. The second section is the hardest to digest, about an African-American soldier stationed near Budapest for whom this military is no more than the definition of slavery with Stalinist overtones--and I fear it'
Dec 29, 2010 Tim rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 14, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it

The Holocaust remains one of the harshest examples of human brutality in history, and yet its history is still only partly known. Because the regions and peoples of Eastern Europe were all involved in different degrees, the experience is not simply defined. For example, a Jew in Russia may have had a completely different experience during this time period than a Jew in Warsaw or one in Hungary. Because of these differences, it's possible to read new accounts and catch new details that may be mis
Oct 07, 2010 Susan rated it liked it
I should start off by staying that I LOVED the idea of this book: three loosely connected stories surrounding Americans in Budapest, Hungary. Before reading "Extraordinary Renditions," I hadn't read a novel set in Hungary, so I appreciated "seeing" it for the first time through the eyes of a talented writer.

I also enjoyed the way in which the author treated the use of the Hungarian language; 99% of the novel is written in English, but the 1% that is written in Hungarian is not translated. Hungar
Aug 31, 2010 Angela rated it really liked it
Thank you Mr. Ervin. I was drawn to this book for the cast of characters and had expected a slight, perhaps lacking Hungarian backdrop. Wrong I was. While the lives you so artfully created were riveting in their description, dialogue and interactions, the scenes you constructed brought me directly back to Budapest. I have had the wonderful opportunity to live in Hungary and visit this heart-wrenching city many times and your work has managed to capture it all. Gritty, romantic, brooding and mood ...more
Jan 04, 2012 April rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2012
Just awful. I wouldn't recommend it anyone.
Pavol Hardos
Aug 29, 2012 Pavol Hardos rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up, fiction
I liked the idea of this book, three interconnected stories, all taking place in and around Budapest. Yet I was profoundly disappointed and stopped reading about half-way in, owing mostly to the truly terrible, terrible writing hoisted upon us in the second story. But first things first.

The first story was about a Holocaust-surviving composer, returning to his hometown for the premiere of his latest work, his most personal and final work, an opera where the central theme was based on a lullaby h
Sep 30, 2010 Marian rated it liked it
Shelves: magyarorszag
I wanted to like this very much - about 60% of the book takes place in the neighborhood where I lived for nearly 3 years, and the bar which figures significantly in the plot would have been right around the corner where I lived (where it's supposed to be was an empty storefront the entire time I lived in the neighborhood). But it reflects poorly on the author that the plot and language weren't strong enough for me to not get distracted by the book's many geographic and linguistic inaccuracies (j ...more
Jun 24, 2014 Sophie rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this more as there are so few books set in Budapest. The book is split into three parts: the first is the story of a world-famous Hungarian Jewish composer who was sent to Terezin concentration camp during WWII and now in his old age has returned to Budapest to have his new opera performed. The second story follows a black soldier from Philadelphia who works on a military base outside Budapest and is being blackmailed by his commander. The third story is of a young Americ ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Ann rated it really liked it
Shelves: expats
While lethargy and apathy and incomprehension demagnetized the globe's moral compass, bodies continued to burn in the distance, the smoke rising to obscure the light of two million stars, still twinkling bright yellow, though already dead.
The orchestra had started to warm up, to arrive at a shared tuning. To Harklayi, the cacophony was gorgeous, like a summer meteor shower dripping from the heavens. There were sounds, often from the reeds and winds, that some listeners would consider
Dec 12, 2010 Christina rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
A series of three loosely linked novellas about American expats in Budapest. The first one, a story of a famous composer returning to his homeland many years after spending his youth in a concentration camp, is the slowest/weakest and took me several attempts to get into. I was contemplating putting this down, but thought I'd give the second story a go and I ended up tearing reading the rest of the book in one shot. The second story concerns a the plight of an African American solider stationed ...more
Mar 17, 2011 Tyler rated it liked it
Recommended to Tyler by: Daisy
Shelves: 2011
Definitely a first novel, flawed and ambitious but engaging throughout. I found the final tying-up of the "Strange Fruit"/'black bodies swaying' motif a little trite, and Ervin would have been helped by some editing at the sentence and paragraph level. What kept me reading was the indelible sense of place this book conjures up, for me one of the chief pleasures of fiction. I'm not sure I would have reacted as strongly or as positively as I did had the places, smells, textures, words, etc, of Hun ...more
Apr 19, 2013 Rachel rated it liked it
Book #10 from The Little Free Library: This books tells 3 different stories, each revolving around an American in Budapest. Each story on it's own was fairly strong and interesting, but the thin threads tying them together left me wishing they had remained separate in order to expand on each story. I would rate this 3.5 stars, going lower than I anticipated mainly because it was a struggle to pick this book up time and time again, even while I recognized it was written well. I found myself readi ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Emily rated it liked it
If this book had a different second section, it would have been much better. The first part and the third part fit so much better together, and the second part is a piece of dissonance in an otherwise lovely novel (though there are other parts in the novel that clearly show the author's agenda and create some serious problems--I, for one, have a hard time believing that a Holocaust survivor would compare Guantanamo Bay to a concentration camp).
Jun 16, 2013 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is written in the form of three loosely connected novellas, all set in Budapest on the same day. I really enjoyed the interplay among the three stories, from the intersecting lives of the three main characters to the multiple perspectives given to the cast of extras. Although intended to be short, the characters are given enough substance that I wish I could have read more of them before the pages ran out.
Mar 24, 2011 Gemma rated it really liked it
Another Coffee House Press success. It took me a while to get into this, but by the time the third section came around I was totally on board. Interesting portraits of people dealing with their own lives, asking themselves how much we can or can't control, asking how much people can change or not change. (Or maybe those are just the things I took away from it.)
Aug 01, 2014 HelenJ rated it liked it
I really like the musical parts of the story. I could lot see the point of the middle part of the book. It just seemed to be left dangling.
Read book as some research into whether to vacation in Budapest or not. Not a great advertising of the city...but certainly showed some of the bleakest side, which is good too.
Jun 21, 2010 Tom is currently reading it
I was about 40% through the book, and really liking it, until I somehow, inexplicably, lost it in a parking lot (I'm thinking outside the DMV), and so will have to put this on hold until next time I get to a good bookshop (and/or order online, depending), which is dispiriting, although good news for A. Ervin, who now gets two sales to me!
Jul 21, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it
Any book that has references to Zoltan Kodaly on the first page and an entire section dedicated to an orchestra concert (including references to bassoons and oboes) is all right with me. The book details the personal challenges of three different ex-pats in Hungary. A composer, a military man and a violinst grapple with fame, blackmail and art.
Nov 07, 2011 Anittah marked it as to-read
apparently this guy is reading as part of the tirefire reading series here in philly in april of next spring. so if I like the cut of his jib (<------ WTF?) then mebz I'll buy a copy

insert more bloggy nonsense here
Fred Rose
Dec 27, 2015 Fred Rose rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
I read this book because it's set in one of my favorite cities, Budapest and it delivered on that front. It's a set of three sort of interlocking stories, which were well written, but just ok overall.
Jun 29, 2013 Mazzeo rated it liked it
This is a cool little book. It's not a novel, but a collection of three interrelated novellas. It's the sort of literary game I really enjoy. If you're looking from something that demands a little more of you as a reader this is a great choice.
Mar 09, 2011 Victoria rated it liked it
An unusual setting for a set of linked stories, which are more or less successful if somewhat too carefully worked out and worked over. It's by a Gaddis fan and scholar whom I've met on the web, so I was inclined to like it, which I did.
Nov 22, 2010 Naomi rated it it was amazing
A very risky book of 3 linked stories. Politically risky as well as a language and subject matter of significant risk. A gamble that paid off brilliantly. "Muscular prose," one of the reviewers said. I agree. Wish I had thought of that!
Sep 12, 2010 Martha rated it really liked it
Four very different lives converge in a single place at a point in time in a moving tribute to personal freedom.
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