Kis, who died last year, is most renowned in Europe for this novel, now rendered expertly into English by Manheim. It is the...

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HOURGLASS

Kis, who died last year, is most renowned in Europe for this novel, now rendered expertly into English by Manheim. It is the most authoritative of his writings, melding miscellany, nuggetted family portraiture, miraculously self-assured stylistics, and great sadness to achieve the kind of un-silly juxtapositions that give the feel of a life lived. In 1942, E.S.--a 52-year-old employee of the Hungarian State Railways--has had his pension inexplicably cut; and as he searches out the end of the thread that might explain this action, he pulls at the entire fabric of European Jewry (and, most specifically, Sephardic Jewry--of which Kis is the great if abstract chronicler) that is about to be forever rent. But this novel is in no way a descriptive Holocaust intimation. It is a fiction that proceeds by means of a number of indirections; there are two modes of interrogation, for instance--terrifyingly formal or more relaxedly self-accusatory--and there are histories of whole clans compressed into half a page; sections are often dreamlike: ""their monochrome and polychrome quality. . .their faculty of transforming unknown places, people, and landscapes into known ones, and vice versa. . ."" More suave and calm than most metafictionalists, Kis shapes the book as negative space. But it is the intimacy of complicated and teeming life remembered, highlighted, that gives it a shimmering quality: los seems here a repository of secrets. Elusive yet startling, full-throated fiction, gorgeously prosed.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0810115131

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1990