Politics and romance, always a volatile mixture, intersect in Delhi in 1956 when a Hungarian cultural attaché falls in love with an Australian doctor.
Originally published 50 years ago and now translated into English for the first time, this novel draws on Zukrowski’s experience as a Polish envoy in India in the 1950s. In the fictional world Zukrowski creates, Istvan Terey, a native of Budapest, works at the Hungarian Embassy in Delhi and deals with some of the minutiae of diplomatic life. Although he’s married, his wife and two sons have remained in Budapest, and Istvan feels both out of touch and out of love with his wife. He has an explosive sexual encounter with Grace Vijayaveda, a young Hindu woman on the eve of her wedding to a rajah, but then, at the wedding ceremony, he meets Margit Ward, an Australian eye doctor who's come to India to relieve some of the suffering there. As Grace notes, "We have misery and suffering enough, so she is in her element." While neither Istvan nor Margit is looking for romance or love, they find themselves attracted to each other and eventually begin an affair. Things heat up in all senses when Istvan starts receiving disturbing letters from Bela, a friend from Hungary, who recounts to him some of the “gravity [and] grandeur” of the revolution that’s unfolding in Budapest in response to arrests, interrogations, and torture. Istvan feels pulled to return to his native land, though his outspoken criticisms of the government do not sit well with the Hungarian ambassador. And his ongoing relationship with Margit keeps him anchored in India, where he is popular with and sympathetic toward the local residents. And life gets even more morally complicated as the relationship between Margit and Istvan deepens and he considers divorcing his wife.
A novel of epic scope and ambition.