SLAVE OF THE HUNS by Geza Gardonyi


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From Hungary for the first time, a hefty, headlong historical romance first published in 1901, redolent of idealism and patriotism and ready for filming. Or at least it would have been in the days of de Mille spectacles and lovelorn heroes. Greek-born Zeta is a slave of the Huns by choice (the original, more appropriate title was The Invisible Man) as a consequence of his obsession with Hunnish princess Emmo; if he distinguishes himself in Attila's service--especially in Attila's unceasing wars--he hopes for freedom, honor, wealth, perhaps Emmo herself. She is equivocal (though one suspects the worst) while her servant-girl Djidjia, changing from urchin to nymph in the course of the story, makes no secret of her feelings. This takes Zeta from boyhood in Constantinople to near-death and maturity in the grim stand-off with the Romans, Franks and Visigoths at Catalaunum (in Central France) but it lingers longest in the vast camp on the Hungarian plain that was Attila's chief city. ""Houses tie people to them. When I have to sleep in a house I feel as if I'm in a crypt. Tents are better. A tent walks with me""--a young Hun has told Zeta, and much of what follows--like Attila dispensing local justice in the public courtyard--is similarly an exaltation of the Hunnish life-style. And there are aphorisms that transcend Zeta's situation: ""A household's air of nobility. . . depends very much on the presence of civilized slaves."" However hoary the plot (at Attila's death, Emmo destroys herself in Zeta's place, but Djidjia is waiting), counterbalancing is abundant energy, graphic detail, ironic reflection.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1969
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill