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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
By János Háy
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 them tap the voice mail on your cell phone.
Translated from Hungarian by Judith Sollosy
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
By Lajos Parti Nagy
Three homeless individuals. Except they’re the size of the embassy.
Translated from Hungarian by Judith Sollosy
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 Ervin Lázár
You want us to exhume her?” Mrs. Bűtös said, trembling.
Translated from Hungarian by Judith Sollosy
from “Communist Monte Cristo”
By Noémi Szécsi
The state police came for Great Granddad only in April, and just when he’d made such a nice adjustment to the people’s republic and its tattered legitimacy!
Translated from Hungarian by Judith Sollosy
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”
By Juan Emar
If they show up, one by one I will grab them by the neck with my left hand and, with that machete in the right, I’ll stir their guts until they fall down dead, dead, dead!
Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
Blessed Margaret
By Virág Erdős
To a guy looking like the law was after him she gave Pest, and to some other homeless sorts, she gave Buda.
Translated from Hungarian by Judith Sollosy
The Toad Prince
By Mihály Kornis
Nobody is hated as much as I. Every day when I go to school, I think this will be the last.
Translated from Hungarian by Judith Sollosy
Kornél Esti’s Bicycle Or: The Structure Of The World
By Péter Esterházy
That rotten, stinking thief got on the bicycle carefully, respectfully, that’s great, he said, first I pick up speed, and with that, picking up speed, he took off quick as lightning
Translated from Hungarian by Judith Sollosy