Books by George Szirtes

IZA'S BALLAD by Magda Szabó
Released: Oct. 18, 2016

"Ghosts, angels, and demons hover in this quiet meditation on grief, love, and history."
A man's death changes reality for his widow and daughter. Read full book review >
THE LAST WOLF and HERMAN by László Krasznahorkai
Released: Sept. 6, 2016

"Somewhere James Joyce is smiling. Krasznahorkai is a writer who, though difficult, demands greater recognition by readers outside Hungary."
Two short but maddeningly complex fictions by the Hungarian master (Seiobo There Below, 2013, etc.) of the postmodern. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 6, 2008

"A finely wrought, heartbreaking self-portrait."
The quiet horror of self-destructive love fuels this beautifully proportioned novella; since Embers (2001), this is the third work of the Hungarian (1900-89) to be translated into English. Read full book review >
THE REBELS by Sándor Márai
Released: March 23, 2007

"A compelling novel that nonetheless carries the ponderous weight of the era's events and ideas."
A newly translated 1930 novel by Hungarian author Márai, set among a group of young men during WWI, joins two other works by the author to enjoy recent play in the publishing sun: Embers (2001) and Casanova in Bolzano (2004). Read full book review >
WAR AND WAR by László Krasznahorkai
Released: April 28, 2006

"Issues of war, peace and reality are overshadowed by the thoroughly depressing figure of Korin, 'the personification of defeat.' "
Burrow into the dense prose of this novel—the Hungarian author's second U.S. publication (following The Melancholy of Resistance, 2000)—about an archivist on a mission and you'll find a story-within-a-story. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 11, 2004

"Embers was the work of a master of concision and irony. This is self-indulgent rant."
The legendary lover is the beleaguered antihero of this hitherto untranslated 1940 novel. Read full book review >
THE BUDAPEST FILE by George Szirtes
Released: April 13, 2001

"He exhibits flashes of a dark, playful humor, but this is a somberly powerful collection."
Szirtes is the son of Hungarian Jews, expatriated in the upheavals of 1956, who grew up in London and studied to be a painter. He would not return to his native country until the late 1980s, and only began to write about Budapest and Hungary a few years before that. Not surprisingly, given both his own estrangement from his Hungarian roots and the turbulence surrounding the country in the 20th century, the primary theme of this collection about the Hungarian experience is history, a fact he readily acknowledges in his introduction. The poems are even organized in loose historical order (rather than the order in which they were written or published), moving from the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian empire through the Holocaust (Szirtes's mother was a concentration-camp survivor) to the bleak days of the Communist period and its abrupt end and, finally, up to the confused but hopeful present. History haunts the collection much as it haunts Budapest, a spectral presence "that leads us down / to find history that feels like truth." As befits a work that is mostly about Budapest as a locus of history, Szirtes's version of the city concentrates on its public spaces, dusty, spare, and bleak; in Communist and post-Communist Hungary, privacy is at a premium, so the wall between public and private space, public and private memory, is a semi-permeable membrane at best. Szirtes is a skilled poet with the strong visual sense one would expect from a former painter and son of a photographer. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 27, 2000

A first English translation of a 1989 Hungarian novel, in which the arrival of a traveling circus in a nondescript village arouses local curiosity, paranoia, and terror and ends in a kind of communal madness. Like the work of Austrian ur-pessimist Thomas Bernhard (which may have influenced it), Krasznahorkai's darkly funny parable is presented in chapters of unbroken long paragraphs, and attains both a hurtling momentum and a pleasing complexity in the presentation of its passionately interconnected characters—the most memorable being the Valkyrie-like hausfrauen Mrs. Eszter and Mrs. Plauf, the former's estranged husband (a music teacher who tries and fails to remain aloof from his neighbors' fear of everything new and different), and the latter's son Valuska, a young idealist whose "awakening" is gloomily foreordained. Not an easy read, but ingeniously composed and fascinating. Read full book review >