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They Were Counted
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Archive In Translation > 2019 April They were counted by Miklos Bánffy

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message 1: by Claire (last edited Mar 30, 2019 01:17PM) (new)

Claire  | 241 comments They Were Counted
(The Writing on the Wall: The Transylvania Trilogy #1)
First published in 1934 in Hungarian

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 Abady and Count Laszlo 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 chilling indictment of upper-class frivolity and political folly, in which good manners cloak indifference and brutality. Abady becomes aware of the plight of a group of Romanian mountain peasants and champions their cause, while Gyeroffy dissipates his resources at the gaming tables, mirroring the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself. The first book in a trilogy published before World War II, it was rediscovered after the fall of Communism in Hungary and this edition contains a new foreword.


message 3: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
I started this book early and am very impressed so far. It is a terrific read so far, and I will probably read the two sequels, bur not right away.


Kathy | 1182 comments I started early also and am surprised how easy it is to read. It definitely is a terrific read--parties, hunting, romance, politics--it has it all.


message 5: by Brian (last edited Apr 13, 2019 09:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments Kathy wrote: "I started early also and am surprised how easy it is to read. It definitely is a terrific read--parties, hunting, romance, politics--it has it all."

I snuck a peek here since I will read this in the last half of the month and this sounds promising. But what is it with Austro-Hungarians and hunting? From various sources, I've learned nothing good happens at their hunting lodges.


message 6: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
I just finished this last night. It depicts a society I know a little about, but now I know more.
The Hungarians always felt that they were not given a fair deal in the Austrian Empire, justifably so.
The politic happenings in this book take about the same place they do in some of Trollope's Palliser novels. The main plot line centres around two cousins, Balint and Laszlo and takes place in aproximately a two year time span-1904 to 1906.

I am definitely going to read the sequels, since I really enjoyed the book.

My mother's family is from Transylvania, but they left after World War 2, since they were part of the German speaking Saxons, who are mentioned briefly in the book.
My mom was born in Romania, but my grandpa was born in the Austro Hungarian Empire!


Kathy | 1182 comments Wonderful that you have a personal connection to the area. I'm learning a lot about this society also. Now I can relate to Transylvania more than just being the setting for Dracula.


message 8: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 241 comments Great that you all like it.
Interesting your mom’s family comes from Transylvania, Rosemarie!
The relations in the Austrian Hungarian empire are worth a lot of study. (In general I think every country in Europe had and has a group of people that feel they are not given a fair deal, which is largely due to centuries of occupation, war and rearranging the borders )


message 9: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
There was a little detail that struck me about the afternoon tea ritual among the upper classes. The fad was to drink tea instead of coffee with whipped cream at around four in the afternoon. I think that fad was short-lived, because coffee with whipped cream is very popular in Vienna. And it does taste good!


Kathy | 1182 comments Pityu Kendy jumped up and knocked a goblet of wine off the table and spilled some on Balint's trouser-legs. Balint shouted, "Hey! Hey! Hey! Watch out!"

All the men who were there are debating who was wronged, who was insulted by this incident - Kendy or Balint. I guess there is going to be a duel! An affair of honor.

I think the author is showing how ridiculous the "rules" for upper-class society are.


message 11: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
Some of the reasons for duels were pretty flimsy.


Kathy | 1182 comments The contrast between the personalities of Balint Abady and his cousin Laszlo Gyeroffy is striking. I must say I enjoy reading more about Laszlo and Klara, Laszlo's artistic life, Laszlo's gambling and other problems than about Balint's thoughts on politics of the time. But I enjoy learning about the Austro-Hungarian empire and perhaps will even understand more fully about the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the beginnings of World War I.


message 13: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
I have been reading Trollope's Palliser novels, which also deals with political matters at times. Even though it is a different country and a different century, political matters were actually very similar. I read a novel a few years ago that dealt with the Hungarian view of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Hungarians felt that they were not getting a fair deal out of the relationship, and they were right. The power was in Vienna.


Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments I just received my copy of the book, sent from a British firm on AbeBooks, and it's a bigger paperback than I thought - 600+. No problem and I will start soon.

It will be interesting to have a 2 month adventure in the Austro-Hungarian empire as I will read The Radetzky March next month. So a bit of the Hungarian part, then a bit of the Austrian part, I presume.


Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments I just finished the first chapter and wanted to comment on the 'epic' feel this book has. It does have a touch of War & Peace feel, as noted in a blurb somewhere. It even has a character list too.

It is a bit slow read at first, as is the case with most epics. But the slowness is my own choice as the first chapter introduces so much of the setting, the family and characters that I am purposely reading slowly.

I am very interested in the book as my maternal Grandmother moved to the New World from Budapest to Toronto, I believe shortly before the novel's time period.


message 16: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
Part of the action of the book takes place in Budapest, Brian.


Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments I've finished about one-third of the novel and I am not finding it that easy of a read, for reasons I can't explain. The language is not complex, it appears be well-written and the story interesting though not compelling, but I sometimes find my mind drifting. It may be that I'm reading while tired and just need more caffeine

I'm actually welcoming more duels to liven things a bit as I just completed the old politician dying in one. I do find it interesting that they are sword rather than pistol duels, since it is the 20th century. I also enjoyed the shooting party descriptions.

The book does remind me of reading War & Peace, without the War part, with romances between upper crust and royal families that have Counts and Princes at the helm. Also, as with War & Peace, I often turn to the handy Cast of Characters guide to clarify who's who.

Kathy's comment that she prefers reading about Laszlo rather than Balint, along with Rosemarie's references to it, made me think it's like preferring Trollope's Barchester series to his Pallisers - it all depends on how much politics you like in the story. I realize I'm stretching that analogy a bit as it's really Laszlo's artistic personality that gives more dynamism to his storyline.


message 18: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
Caffeine is good! ☕️


Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments I just picked the book up for today's reading and it's the morning after the ball and it is describing Adrienne's experience with her husband on her wedding night. My goodness, no caffeine needed for this part!


message 20: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
Poor Adrienne!


Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments And Poor Balint, having to teach Adrienne how to kiss. Work, work, work.

The actual duel, and the whole process in determining that a duel is required, is both interesting and reminds me of my Tax Law Professor's constant refrain "another example of form over substance."


Kathy | 1182 comments My copy didn't have a list of characters which would have helped.


Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments I've finished two-thirds of the novel and I enjoyed this middle third more than the previous part as the romantic plots have thickened, so to speak. Banffy has some good depictions in this part and does the love-making scenes well. I liked Fanny's line to Warday as she has tired of him and is ending things by pawning him off to Klara: "the rule is to stop eating while you're still hungry." Fanny may not be a good person, but she is a good character.
I also liked the Upstairs/Downstairs type side plot with Klara's maid, the depictions of Laszlo's gambling urges and that the Austrian in the story is treated as a more villainous dolt.


Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments Rosemarie wrote: "There was a little detail that struck me about the afternoon tea ritual among the upper classes. The fad was to drink tea instead of coffee with whipped cream at around four in the afternoon. I thi..."

If afternoon coffee is popular in Vienna, that could be why the Hungarians would choose tea instead. Viva la difference!


message 25: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemarie | 8256 comments Mod
That makes sense, Brian. Or is it just a fad?


message 26: by Brian (last edited Apr 21, 2019 12:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments Rosemarie wrote: "That makes sense, Brian. Or is it just a fad?"
You could check it out yourself by taking a short detour to Hungary!


message 27: by Brian (last edited Apr 27, 2019 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments I have finished the book, so here are some comments:

1) While it started out slowly, I grew to enjoy it more and more as the 621 page volume went on. It was a probable 3 star read that became almost a 5 star read by the end. Assessing the novel in its entirety, it was a solid 4 star read. I am fairly disciplined in my reading but I felt compelled to read until the end today rather than finishing tomorrow as planned.

2) To describe it in terms of other books : it is an epic with counts and princes like War & Peace, upper class family soap opera romance like the Forsyte Saga, and politics like Trollope's Pallisers but with more significance.Like Trollope, it also has visiting and hunting at country estates, though its bird/deer rather than fox.

3) As I said earlier, the book is more erotic than I anticipated but Banffy writes those scenes well, descriptive without being overly explicit. He also did a great job describing gambling addiction.

4) I enjoyed the politics and insight into the Austrian-Hungarian-Romanian people dynamic.

5) I have some Hungarian roots so I gave the book a go, and it was well worth reading. I look forward to next month's The Radetzky March.


message 28: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 728 comments Oh joy! My library system has managed to find me a copy of the whole trilogy in 1 book. I can't wait for it to arrive.


Brian Reynolds | 3772 comments Tracey wrote: "Oh joy! My library system has managed to find me a copy of the whole trilogy in 1 book. I can't wait for it to arrive."

That will be one heavy book. I estimate it at 1500 pages, depending on the type.


message 30: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 241 comments Brian wrote: "I have finished the book, so here are some comments:

1) While it started out slowly, I grew to enjoy it more and more as the 621 page volume went on. It was a probable 3 star read that became almo..."


Thank you for putting it out so nicely.
I do admire disciplined readers. My mind is all the time taking detours:-(


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