This book, a novel set in a single evening, was very striking. The story, and the bit of a mystery, push you forward in the text quickly. While most oThis book, a novel set in a single evening, was very striking. The story, and the bit of a mystery, push you forward in the text quickly. While most of the last two thirds of the book is practically one long soliloquy, it is not hard to stay interested. However, I do tire of being told all of the things of which women are apparently incapable (the character is particularly insistent about our lack of ability to form true friendships, the gold standard for which is apparently his bizarre, scorn-filled, misogynistic, envy-laced brotherhood with a man he desires jealously, but can never fully understand...right). Besides that, I found it compelling and occasionally even thoughtful....more
While in Budapest, I looked for some Hungarian novels to read. This is one that I came across in the CEU bookstore and thought it sounded good. (I wasWhile in Budapest, I looked for some Hungarian novels to read. This is one that I came across in the CEU bookstore and thought it sounded good. (I was also interested because it seemed to be received as "literary" despite being a book by a woman about the relationship between two women.)
A writer and her husband hire on a very unusual maid named Emerence to care for their house while they work. She is an odd force of nature, a rare character, and well respected by the whole community, but almost no one knows anything about her, and she does not allow others into her home at all. What follows the mystery is an investigation into the nature of friendship, love, privacy, and sense of self. I read it all on a plane in one day....more
This is a fiction book about a Jewish boy held in Auschwitz concentration camp and Buchenwald and Zeitz work campus during the Holocaust by a man whoThis is a fiction book about a Jewish boy held in Auschwitz concentration camp and Buchenwald and Zeitz work campus during the Holocaust by a man who had a similar experience. He tells the tale matter-of-factually, as he experiences it. A lot of details just build to provide a picture of how commonplace and every-day horror can become as humans try to survive moment to moment. As he tries to explain to his family on returning home how hope, and longing for stability, and ethics have led everyone involved who is still alive to follow this path through to fruition, everyone he tries to explain it to becomes horrified. He speculates on the happiness in the concentration campus and on how anyone who came to these realizations all at once, instead of minute by minute as they were forced to live and find food and work and move, might collapse.
Honestly, it kept occurring to me while I was traveling in unknown places after finishing the book that I was sometimes following signs in underground places that were little populated for long distances, and I was just doing what the signs suggested I do next. Just hoping that it would get me where I needed to be without much thought, and I would think of the beginning of the books as people are transported to the camps almost without protest. Then I would feel ridiculous for my mundane comparison in face of such atrocities, then I would think about how the mundane nature of a lot of it was kind of his point, but it didn't make me feel less guilty....more
At turns absurd, dark, and hilarious. This novel is told in excerpts from the life of the narrator's mischievous doppelganger. While some stories, likAt turns absurd, dark, and hilarious. This novel is told in excerpts from the life of the narrator's mischievous doppelganger. While some stories, like those about the town where all of the advertisements tell the terrible truth, or the one in which Esti tries at length to give away a sizable amount of money that he was left by a distant aunt, or the one in which all of the numerous overly-attentive staff of a ridiculously well-appointed hotel perfectly resemble famous historical figures, are just delicious flights of fancy, a joy to read. Others take on darker tones and try and say something about life in much the same way his book Skylark did, particularly the ones featuring mentally ill characters. There were a few that I had a hard time getting all of the way through (just how long can you talk about the perfect way the elderly president of a lecture club falls asleep immediately upon introducing a speaker and wakes moments before the speaker concludes...apparently a looooooooooooong time). Still, most of the book was both entertaining and thought-provoking, an excellent read....more
We'll be traveling to Hungary soon and this book is one of the few available in translation here by a popular Hungarian writer of the early 20th centuWe'll be traveling to Hungary soon and this book is one of the few available in translation here by a popular Hungarian writer of the early 20th century, Dezs�� Kosztol��nyi.
So first I'll say that the writing was very enjoyable, that I came to really like characters that I thought at the beginning would bore me to tears the whole book, and that the book can be incredibly funny at times. But, by God, this book was depressing to me. At the end I wanted to scream "Affect change! All of your lives could be so much better! So much more!" Silly American that I am.
So there is a small family. An "ugly" daughter--a spinster at 35, and her two adoring parents. She maintains the house and their lives. The parents adore her. She is to go on a short trip to the country. They are all devastated. What in the world will they do for the whole week? The answer turns out to be, have a freakin life. (view spoiler)[So they get dragged back into their social connections and personal interests and have a delightful week. She spends a week in the country not getting the husband and family that she so desperately wants or enjoying the company of her extended family, and then she comes back. They go back to being shut-ins with bland food instead of awesome goulash and palinka parties. (hide spoiler)]
According to the introduction, Kosztol��nyi found it pretty much impossible to write about anything but the fact that we are dying. The examples of personal suffering are poignant, no one in the book is NOT suffering the daughter's fate as all of their hearts break along with hers. But myself, free from the 20th-century Magyar's baggage and saddled with my own American millennial mindset was so angry at them for not doing something to make things better. Don't get me wrong, I didn't want or expect her to get a makeover or marriage prospects. (I would have been way more angry at the end.) I just want them to do something to make their lives better instead of suffering so much, but I guess, realistically or fatalistically, that's generally not how life is.
PS - We are all dying. Thanks, Kosztol��nyi.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This did a really good job of introducing us to basic pleasantries. At the end of the series we can greet and exchange pleasantries with others, talkThis did a really good job of introducing us to basic pleasantries. At the end of the series we can greet and exchange pleasantries with others, talk about eating and shopping, go through ordering food and talking about prices, and ask for directions (though I'm afraid we won't be able to understand much beyond here and there with pointing). We have been really pleased with this system for just introducing us enough to get around and be polite in the city. I think my pronunciation is much better than it would have been otherwise. I wish that they would have been more fluid in how we were taught to use the limited vocabulary at times, but I think this has done a great job preparing us for the trip....more
I picked this up at the library while planning our trip to Budapest. It was primarily the story of a few Oxford undergrads wandering around in the midI picked this up at the library while planning our trip to Budapest. It was primarily the story of a few Oxford undergrads wandering around in the middle of a violent revolution. Somehow it reminded me of some of Connie Willis's time traveling characters. Korda did a fine job of recounting the state of affairs for anyone with a basic understanding of the events leading up to the Cold War, and a good job of explaining why the entire worlds' attention seemed to be focused elsewhere throughout the whole crackdown. I enjoyed the personal vignettes, even though the story was not an enjoyable one....more