Email this review


Twelve stories by a native of Budapest that follow the lives of Hungarians and Hungarian refugees before, during, and after WW II--with an underlying, and occasionally intrusive, theme of Christian faith. A suspension of belief is sometimes necessary here, as in ""The Wedding Anniversary,"" when the young son of landed parents determines, during a hunting party, to shoot the pro-Nazi prime minister--except that that official drops of a heart attack while in the boy's gunsights. Impeccable and often moving detail accompanies many of the stories, but the decision of another landowner's son first to commit (""Neither Death nor Life"") and then not to commit suicide remains undermotivated, although such is not the case in the horror- and beauty-filled war story, ""The Noise Was Heard Afar Off:"" Sentimentality walks hand in hand with the grittiest of war-realism in the title story, about the (ambiguously) doomed love between a Hungarian man and Russian gift in the wreckage of Budapest. Of the postwar stories, ""A D-minor Fugue"" beautifully captures the fog and grime of industrial England as a war-exile, fearing madness, is saved by his love for a young girl (and for religiously inspired music). ""At a Certain Angle,"" however, becomes badly forced as a couple having an affair ponder their religious beliefs, and the same artificiality appears in ""Two Hundred Yards Past Wordsworth's House,"" when abortion becomes the issue ("" 'I never told you this, Caleb,' his mother said. 'Your father wanted me to abort you' ""). Varyingly successful stories about exiles living in Florida close the volume: Memories of the war torment these characters, some plunged into poverty, others have found niches in or near academia, but almost all buoyed, at end, by a near-revelatory faith that sometimes seems less an organic part of the stories than a predetermined adjunct to them, as in ""Lazarus,"" when a rabbit, being cared for by children, dies but then springs back to life. A talented writer interweaves themes of undeniable beauty and pain with material that to some, and at some times, will seem arbitrary or tendentious.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1987
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press