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Under the Frog

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,529 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Under the Frog follows the adventures of two young Hungarian basketball players through the turbulent years between the end of World War II and the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. In this spirited indictment of totalitarianism, the two improbable heroes, Pataki and Gyuri, travel the length and breadth of Hungary in an epic quest for food, lo ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by St. Martins Press-3pl (first published October 1993)
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Lorenzo Berardi

I used to play basketball in the same team for around 10 years in a row from childhood to the mid-teens. Those were glorious days.

My team was named Polisportiva Lame (quite funny for English speaking ears, isn't it?) also known as Pol.Lame (pollame meaning "poultry" in Italian) and we were very consistent players.
Years passed by and we were always standing at the bottom of our league.
Nevertheless, I was passionate or masochist e
Oct 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Before traveling to Budapest, I wanted to read something that took place there. This was good choice. The story takes place in communist Hungary, culminating with the uprising in October, 1956. Hungary was invaded by Germany during WWII and then in 1948 was handed over to Russia. The main character, Gyuri Fischer, is a basketball player on a traveling team in 1956. He, along with the other players, are on the payroll of the Hungarian Railway. They are required to work very little and spend all t ...more
Feb 06, 2010 rated it liked it
It is a good book in some respects but it is an extremely difficult read. The writer is telling us the story for 250 pages. Virtually no dialogue. Metaphor after metaphor, he must have spent a month rehearsing one sentence. So many times I found myself stuck having to re-read because I had no idea what was going on or what time period we were in. The chapter headings are worthless unless you are in the last chapter. This is because he switches gears so many times in a chapter you can't remember ...more
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So I'm convinced that the poor title choice and even worse cover design are the reason this book has received so little attention. Probably one of the best I've read this year--I found it more or less at random because I was taking a trip to Budapest and wanted to get a picture of the culture and history before I went. The book follows the lives of two friends in Budapest from just after the second world war until the 1956 revolution when thousands of Hungarians fought communist power and succee ...more
Vit Babenco
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“Does it help being the clever pig on the way to the abattoir?”
Totalitarian regimes comprise those who serve them and those who hate them. Those who serve try to destroy those who hate. But when the number of those who hate amounts to the critical mass there is an explosion.
“I expect some of you will be committing suicide. Indeed I will consider my work a failure if some of you turds don’t try a bit of wrist-slashing. And if you don’t do the job properly, we’re willing to help; attempted suicide
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O istorie tragico-comică a comunismului. Am rămas mut de uimire. Cartea e uluitor de bună. Poate sfârșitul e cam grăbit, dar, în rest...
Simona Moschini
Ma dov'erano gli imperialisti americani? E quelli britannici? O magari quelli tedeschi? Erano anni e anni che si sentivano promettere imperialisti, pensò Gyuri con rabbia. A che gioco giocavano gli imperialisti? Si era preparato la frase per accogliere gli invasori americani: "Come mai ci avete messo tutto 'sto tempo? Venite, vi porto da qualche comunista interessante, che sarete certamente ansiosi di fucilare".
Quando sentì alla radio la notizia della morte di Stalin, Gyuri si stava lavando i c
Jun 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone.
Shelves: humor, history, fiction
I finally finished this book after multiple stop and starts over the course of a year. Why all the ADD? Fischer has a knack for throwing in a side reference or vignette in a heartbeat, expounding on that reference for a few pages or more, and then going back to the original topic at the last part of the chapter. This makes for a temporally disjointed experience.

The story starts a few years before the Hungarian Revolution of '56, then Fischer moves to backtracks to the past, and then returns to
Alex Sarll
'Under a frog's arse, down a coal-mine' - the Hungarian phrase denoting the absolute nadir. And even in that nation's long and fairly inglorious history (the genius of Hungarian armies for getting wiped out is a frequent motif here), an apt description for the period this novel covers, from the bruising end of the Second World War up to freedom's brief flowering in 1956. The half-despairing, half-optimistic refrain "This can't go on much longer" is another running joke; alas, it does. And it's a ...more
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Basketball, nudism, communism...Like one of Fischer's characters says "Life is too short for good should only read great books (p. 78)". This is a great book. Instantly one of my favorites of all time.

Under the Frog is about a basketball team in Hungary in the late 1950's/ early 1960's. It has a certain level of familiar Eastern European absurdity to it, it never lets you down with it's wit, and it gives a nice interesting slice of history.

Tibor's use of language is impressive too.
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is not so much a novel as a series of anecdotes told over time so the story doesn't really flow, it jumps, which often left me wondering how the protagonist got from point A to point B. There was a lot of background to each story in order to suggest how each of the characters arrived but only the minimum which saved a lot of time in details like "plot development" but I felt like characters were just taken on and off the shelf as necessary.
That said, the anecdotes were mostly hilarious and
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed it - gratified to see others comparing it with Catch 22, which I have not read for decades but which came to mind quickly. The Communist setting, the casual oppression, the humor in the face of it, perhaps harder to explain to readers who aren't already versed in it, and from what little I do know of it (and I am sure there is more humor here for Hungarian readers) I think he managed to get it across through the characters and their actions. Occasionally I was distracted by bits o ...more
Kevin Tole
Having read and reread this many times now there are still passages I cannot read without ending up on the floor in fits of laughter - like the time of Pataki's arrest by the AVO and the story that follows, and the eating contest. This is a well written and very funny book. Its a pity that Mr. Fischer's subsequent books have failed to live up to the promise of this one. The characters that Fischer invents through the book are a real delight and all with distinct charm and the capacity for the de ...more
Aron Kerpel-Fronius
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a Hungarian basketball player, I was really surprise to find a book about Hungarian basketball players in a random second hand bookshop in London!

An even more pleasant surprise was that it is actually witty, funny, exciting and nevertheless factually correct in its storytelling about the events leading up to the 1956 revolution. Great read!
Tanvir Muntasim
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Although I read it years ago, it turned me into a staunch fan of Tibor Fischer and his inimitable sense of humor. I tracked down each of his book and read them, but this remains to be his best work to date. If you want to read acid sharp humor poking fun at the communist regime, this is the definitive book to read.
Leif Erik
One of the funniest and heartbreaking books I've ever read. If you're up on your mid-century mid-euro history you'll be enthralled. The brutal suppression of the '56 Hungarian uprising has never been told in a more humorous vein.
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the few books I've read more than 3 times. I've called people up just to read them sentences out of this book. Reading this will make you sympathetic towards Hungarians and basketball players. All of TF's other fiction is rotten, so don't bother with his subsequent books.
Tanvir Muntasim
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spectacular debut novel from Fischer, with the unusual backdrop of Hungary in the 60's, with his unique humor that makes this a memorable read.
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So. Good. Hilarious novel about Hungarian basketball players before and during the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution.
James Wallman
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Funniest book I've ever read. Funnier - even, if it really is possible - than Catch-22.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well formulated darkly comic tale of two friends growing up in post-war Hungary. Fischer creates a vivid picture of the worst aspects of Stalinist rule in which his nihilisticly inclined characters survive in the way most people do by not getting involved and taking pleasure in the little spanners they can stick in the works of the system along the way. This is a well crafted work of fiction drawing on historical events. Fischer is English born but has Hungarian parentage which makes f ...more
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Salman Rushdie apparently dubbed this Booker Prize finalist “a delicate, seriocomic treasure” - which makes complete sense as you read it. A really well done novelization of Hungary (Budapest) from the end of World War II to the rebellion in 1956. Having some background knowledge is helpful too, though; for that, I’d recommend Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. And it is a hell of a story, worth remembering.
Víctor Sampayo
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Divertida, cruel, descorazonadora, crítica. Así Bajo el culo del sapo, opera prima de Tibor Fischer en la que vemos los pasos de un joven basquetbolista húngaro en los años posteriores a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, cuando la nación magiar escapó del yugo nazi... para caer en el yugo estalinista, en el que la búsqueda de la libertad parece la única consigna válida e importante.
Aleksandra Joanna
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Named after the Hungarian expression "under a frog's arse, down a coalmine", meaning an extremely low point in your life - a hilarious take on a tragic situation that Hungary faced in the 1940s and 1950s. A great black comedy.
Matt Aldridge
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. Great story, funny and poignant in all the right places.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Así se hace sufrir a uno y varias personajes: con humor, con crudeza, con hiperrealismo.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A difficult read in that I didn't understand some of it clearly.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
Too difficult to read, I need more dialogue or captivating descriptions to keep going. This was to much of a drag.
Lukasz Pruski
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tibor Fischer's "Under the Frog" was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize (the best original novel written in the English language) in 1993. Indeed it is an extraordinary book - powerful, often tragic and hysterically funny. It is advertised as a "black comedy" - well, maybe; life in general might be viewed as a black comedy, considering the futility of human efforts in the face of the guaranteed unhappy ending. Salman Rushdie offers a blurb for the cover: "A delicate, seriocomic treasur ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I finally finished this book after multiple stop and starts over the course of a year. Why all the ADD? Fischer has a knack for throwing in a side reference or vignette in a heartbeat, expounding on that reference for a few pages or more, and then going back to the original topic at the last part of the chapter.
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Tibor Fischer is a British novelist and short story writer. In 1993 he was selected by the influential literary magazine Granta as one of the 20 best young British writers.

Fischer's parents were Hungarian basketball players, who fled Hungary in 1956. The bloody 1956 revolution, and his father's background, informed Fischer's debut novel Under the Frog, a Rabelaisian yarn about a Hungarian basketba
More about Tibor Fischer

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“Gyuri had dropped church much in the same way he had stopped believing in Santa Claus; there came a point where it was impossible to take it seriously.” 0 likes
“This was surely the real boon of a religious upbringing: it gave you a number to ring in emergencies, which was some consolation, even if no one answered.” 0 likes
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