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Journey by Moonlight (New York Review Books Classics)by Antal Szerb
Synopses & Reviews
An NYRB Classics Original
Venice between the wars, a Hungarian couple on their honeymoon. But “Venice is where the trouble began”—where Mihály finds that he prefers wandering backalleys to the company of his bride, Erzsi. In Ravenna they are interrupted at an outdoor café by a man who zooms up on a motorcycle. It is a man from Mihály’s past, with a mysterious grudge and an inexplicable demand: that Mihály seek out a friend of their childhood who had been spotted in a procession of monks. Outside of Florence, Mihály fails to board the train that is to carry him and Erzsi to Rome. Thus begins Mihály’s odyssey through the cities and countryside of Italy and back through the youth that haunts him. Here he is reunited with a charismatic sister and brother, Éva and Tamás, whose strange amateur theatricals have left sex and death forever linked in Mihály’s mind; Ervin, a rival for Éva’s love and a Jew turned Catholic monk; and the man on the motorcycle, János.
Antal Szerb’s dreamlike story is a reckoning with freedom and responsibility, the pulls of love and destruction, and the ways that the past returns to be relived or rejected.
"In this 1937 masterpiece from the late Hungarian novelist Szerb, businessman Mihaly takes his new bride Erzsi to Italy on their honeymoon, but from their first night in Venice, when Mihaly gets lost wandering the back alleys, their plans for an orderly vacation are thwarted by fate. With each chapter, mysterious characters from the past appear, strange letters are received, and locales shift from the merely exotic to the fantastical. It emerges that in Mihaly's youth, he had an intense friendship with wealthy brother and sister Tamas and Eva. The shadow of this passionate entanglement hangs over Mihaly's adult life; Italy turns out to be full of clues relating to Tamas's death, and Eva seems to literally be around every corner (at one point spying on Mihaly though holes cut in a tapestry). The romanticism crossed with middle-European emotional claustrophobia and the surreal suggests a love child of Stendhal and Kafka. The wonderfully assured shifts in tone and substance from chapter to chapter are clearly the work of a master. This is an important translation that will hopefully spur the rediscovery of a major talent. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Antal Szerb (1901–1945), born in Budapest, was a writer and scholar noted as one of the major literary personalities of the twentieth century. He established a reputation as an academic at a very young age, spoke several languages, and lived in France, Italy, and England. In late 1944 he was deported to a concentration camp where he died months later. Among his major fictional works are Journey by Moonlight, The Pendragon Legend, and Oliver VII.
Len Rix is a translator of Hungarian literature, best known for his translations of Antal Szerb’s Journey by Moonlight and Magda Szabo’s The Door, both of which will be published as NYRB Classics in Fall 2014. He lives in the U.K.
Julie Orringer is an American writer from Miami. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and her stories have appeared in McSweeney's, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, as well as in several anthologies. She has a collection of short stories, How to Breathe Underwater, and one novel, The Invisible Bridge. She lives in Brooklyn.
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