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August 2010

Writing from Hungary

This month we're touring the beguiling literary landscape of Hungary, guided by guest editor and translator extraordinaire Judith Sollosy. The comic János Háy eavesdrops on the end of an affair. Celebrated Roma writer Magda Szécsi distills the essence of Gypsy culture, while veteran Péter Esterházy shows a boy the way of the world. The great Sándor Tar dispatches a crippled man and his resentful son on a train to hell. Noémi Szécsi, winner of the Literary Prize of the European Union, tweaks a lifetime of Party loyalty. Satirist Lajos Parti Nagy confronts a huge homeless problem. Kossuth Prize winner Ervin Lázár watches a bureaucrat pledge to spread the wealth and raise the dead. Virág Erdős debuts in English with a sardonic look at charity and wealth. And playwright Mihály Kornis dramatizes self-loathing.

Elsewhere this month, France's Lewis Trondheim goes on holiday, Mongolia's B. Odgerel bird-watches, and Chile's Juan Emar visits a manic painter.

This issue was made possible by the Hungarian Cultural Center, New York.

Writing from Hungary: An Introduction
By Beatrice Smigasiewicz
I saw a movie the other day, Cold Souls by Sophie Barthes, in which I caught the following dialogue:  “I’m working on a play. 'Uncle Vanya.'”  “I . . . I know…
Lou’s Last Letter to Feri’s Wife
See here Christine, don’t you give me that crap alright? Don’t go telling me what you told me Christine, ‘cause I’m not buying it, the thing about Feri going to T-Mobile and having…
Translated from Hungarian
Slow Freight
By Uwe Kolbe
Are we poor, Dad? Yes, Son, we’re poor. Not very. But poor enough. Why are we poor, Dad? I don’t know. Become somebody took it? Took what? I don’t know. Tibi Kárász said…
Translated from Hungarian by Yadé Kara
Oh, Those Chubby Genes
Three homeless citizens were sitting on Budapest’s Liberty Square, watching television. By the corner of the American Embassy, policemen with automatics were shuffling in place, as always, blowing…
Translated from Hungarian
from “Gypsy Mandalas”
10th Mandala I realized early on inside my mother’s belly that I’d be born a Gypsy. The realization made me drown at least twice in the embryonic fluid, but then I decided to resurrect myself.…
Translated from Hungarian by Uwe Mengel
The China Doll
By Kristin Dickinson
The stranger looked familiar. He might have come from Dorog, or possibly the county seat. István Jósvai said his name was Csurmándi. Csurmándi was a bundle of energy and self-confidence.…
Translated from Hungarian
from “Communist Monte Cristo”
By Stefan Heym
Question:  “In 1956, who awaited Father Christmas most eagerly?” Answer:  “Comrade Stalin. He already put his boots out in October.” Budapest joke, 1956   The state…
Translated from Hungarian
The Sound of Pigeons in Flight
By B. Odgerel
The sound of pigeons in flightis the everyday beauty of the sky.Like something which the wind has received,the birds’ bright shapes are alive upon the wind.Wheeling round, they come to earth,better than…
Translated from Mongolian by Simon Wickham-Smith
From “Ayer”
The bronze bells of Los Jeronimos tolled the noon hour. We were hungry. We headed for the Basilica restaurant, which was the closest, and sat down at a table.  My wife ordered:            …
Translated from Spanish
Blessed Margaret
Translator’s Note: Daughter of King Béla of Hungary and his wife Maria Laskaris, Princess Margaret (1242–70) was pledged to the Church by her father if the country survived the Mongolian…
Translated from Hungarian
The Toad Prince
I am standing in front of the mirror, afraid that I am bad. I am ugly because I am bad. I am a toad because the wicked witch has cast a spell on me. That’s why my head is like a toad. Jewish. Squash…
Translated from Hungarian
Kornél Esti’s Bicycle Or: The Structure Of The World
As a rule, Esti looked up to his father as he did to God, but when he bought him that certain bicycle, that clinched it. The way an atheist looks up to God. Easily gliding similes never give the fate…
Translated from Hungarian