Synopses & Reviews
Not just one of Brazil's most influential and beloved composers and musicians, Chico Buarque has won high praise as a poet, playwright, and novelist. Now with Budapest, his third novel, he offers a darkly comic social satire and a transcontinental love story of sex, violence, and comedy. Brazilian ghostwriter Jose Costa has just attended the Anonymous Writers Congress in Istanbul and is on his way back to Rio when a technical problem with his Lufthansa flight forces him to spend a night in Budapest. Fascinated by the Hungarian language, he falls under the sway of Kriska, an apparent teacher of the language. After misadventures in Hungary that include a round of Russian roulette with a couple of gypsies, he returns to Rio to find that his wife has vanished and the entire country is reading a book that he ghostwrote. Has his wife run off with the author? Costa manages to forget Copacabana and the samba in order to immerse himself in the Hungarian language and nights in Budapest. Chico Buarque's novel coils around the reader like a magical snake from the Arabian Nights-and recalls Borges and Calvino in its literary playfulness.
"Jos Costa, a vain ghostwriter and inveterate amateur linguist in his late 30s, is the narrator of this potent cross-cultural romp through Rio de Janeiro and Budapest. As Costa is returning to Brazil from an 'anonymous authors' convention' in Istanbul, a bomb threat forces his plane to land in the Hungarian capital, where he is immediately bewitched by the Magyar language, 'rumoured to be the only tongue in the world the devil respects.' Back in Rio he starts to mouth Hungarian while asleep and ghostwrites The Gynographer, a farcically oversexed gothic autobiography. Growing tired of his job and sour marriage, Costa jets back to Budapest, where he stalks and seduces both the language and Kriska, a divorced mother who sadistically tutors him in Hungarian. Costa masters the language soon enough too soon to be entirely believable and begins ghostwriting in his adopted tongue until the authorities deport him on a visa violation. What ruse can get him back to Budapest and Kriska? Buarque (Turbulence; Benjamin), a renowned Brazilian composer and musician, concocts a predictable postmodern conceit to wrap things up, a smoke-and-mirrors metatextual gimmick. On the whole, however, this slim book a hybrid travelogue-romance-satire-intro to literary theory recalling Gogol and Borges, among others is anything but stale: dark comedy abounds, and Costa's metaphorical language about language is refreshingly lyrical, bracing and ruminative. Agent, Bloomsbury Publishing (U.K.). (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In an age of borders, Chico Buarque's masterpiece Budapest dissolves frontiers, creating an odd new world, where everything is being constantly reborn: words, writing, language, loss, and, above all, love. . . . I can think of no contemporary English language novel as joyful, daring, and innovative-nor as great a pleasure to read." -Richard Flanagan, author of Gould's Book of Fish "Budapest is a deeply beautiful book, and a masterpiece of narrative deftness. . . . It is a novel wise about many things-migration, language, culture, human nature-but its compassion is its greatest wisdom." -Anne Michaels "Chico Buarque has crossed a chasm with his writing, and arrived at the other side. To the side where one finds work executed with mastery . . . something new has happened in Brazil with this book." -José Saramago "Budapest is a labyrinth of mirrors whose resolution comes, not in the plot, but in the words, like in poems." -Caetano Veloso