Seven nicely varied stories from the virtually forgotten work of a major Hungarian writer. Déry (1894–1977) was a dedicated left-wing intellectual who suffered privation, persecution and frequent imprisonment during WWII and his country’s 1956 revolution, both of which bulk large in his fiction. This is best exemplified by the six-part “Games of the Underworld” (published in 1946 as a novel), a richly episodic depiction of the embattled daily lives of survivors of the 1944 siege of Budapest. Similar lucidity graces the moving tale (“Love”) of a POW’s emotional return to his wife and child (the inspiration behind a famous 1971 film); the story of a dying old woman given peace by her daughter-in-law’s fabrication of her imprisoned husband’s new life in America (“Two Women”), and the Tolstoyan portrayal of a fatalistic professor’s arduous “escape” to Austria during the 1956 revolution’s worst days.
One of the least known of 20th-century Europe’s great writers here receives his due. It’s about time.