Moonlit journeys

4 02 2011

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb

Anxious to please his bourgeois father, Mihaly has joined the family firm in Budapest. Pursued by nostalgia for his bohemian youth, he seeks escape in marriage to Erzsi, not realising that she has chosen him as a means to her own rebellion. On their honeymoon in Italy, Mihaly ‘loses’ his bride at a provincial station and embarks on a chaotic and bizarre journey that leads him finally to Rome. There all the death-haunted and erotic elements of his past converge, and he, like Erzsi, has finally to make a choice.

One of my favourite Christmas presents this year, this is a genuinely terrific book. Highly regarded in Hungary it seems extraordinary that its impact has been pretty modest in the English speaking world. It’s an outstanding, natural, translation and deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelf.

There is a brief tidy review by Nicholas Lezard of this book in the Guardian which summarises extremely well the case for its status as a modern classic. As noted here it is reminiscent of Cocteau but also reminded me of Sartre’s Age of Reason. But Szerb has a voice of his own and it comes across wonderfully here.

Read it.

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