Month: June 2022

Miklós Szentkuthy: Prae (Prae Part 1)

The latest addition to my website is Prae ( Prae Part 1). Miklós Szentkuthy published this novel in 1934 and it has never been translated into any other language (apart from one chapter in French) till now. This is the first part, a mere 950 pages in length. My review of the second part will appear in July. It is a very complex, very modernist novel whch is impossible to sum up in any way. It has been compared to Proust and Musil and Joyce and Kafka but in reality it is not like any of them, except that it is complex, long and difficult. There is a sort of plot but much of the novel finds Szentkuthy, often through one of his chracters, Leville-Touqué, philosphising, often for many pages. Critics have called it formless, encyclopedic, the ultimate failed modernist hyper-novel,forerunner of the postmodern novel and an attempt to find the one and only physical and metaphysical principle that would account for all of the phenomena of the world. It is all of those and much more. Had it been written in English, French or German, it would be much better known and its publication in English should definitely ensure it is added to the canon of great (and probably all too often unread) modernist novels (think Finnegans Wake). However, if you are at all interested to see the direction the modernist novel took, read this and Szentkuthy’s other works available in English.

Yuri Felsen: Обман (Deceit)

The latest addition to my website is Yuri Felsen‘s Обман (Deceit). This novel was first published in 1930 and is one of three surviving novels by Felsen, others being lost after he was sent to Auschwitz and murdered, and the first to appear in English. It is written in the form of a diary by a Russian exile in Paris who is a businessman rather than a writer (apart from the diary). He is receiving the niece of an old friend (herself divorced) and, even without meeting her, is convinced she is the one. She is not, at least as far as she is concerned. Two desultory affairs with two other Russian women are messy and unpleasant. However, the real interest in the book is that our narrator examines himself psychologically and it is not all together a pretty sight. He sees himself as a victim, cannot understand why people do not see things his way and ends ups saying It is impossible to live without deceit. It is an excellent read though not as some have said particularly Proustian.

Ulrike Almut Sandig: Monster wie wir ( Monsters Like Us)

The latest addition to my website is Ulrike Almut Sandig‘s Monster wie wir (Monsters Like Us). The novel is narrated by Ruth, now a successful violinist to her almost invisible (in this novel) Finnish boyfriend Voitto. Ruth grew up in East Germany where she met Viktor at school and the two became friends. However, they have one other thing in common – both were sexually abused, Ruth by her grandfather and Viktor by his half-sister’s husband. They briefly talk about it but if you don’t talk about it, then it hasn’t really happened. That’s right isn’t it?. After the fall of Communism, Ruth gets on with her musical career while Viktor becomes a right-wing thug and then, improbably, an au pair in France where he recognises that the boy in his care is also a victim of sexual abuse and takes appropriate action. While the sexual abuse theme is key, we learn a lot about life in East Germany, from the founding to the fall and afterwards.

Manuel Astur: San: el libro de los milagros (Of Saints and Miracles)

The latest addition to my website is Manuel Astur‘s San: el libro de los milagros (Of Saints and Miracles). Marcelino, a naive young man living in Asturias, a remote rural part of Spain, is cheated out of his farm by his conniving brother (who takes after their drunken, violent father). He kills his brother and flees to the hills. He manages – just – to keep one step ahead of the police but soon becomes not just a local folk hero – tourists come from miles around to try and get a glimpse of him -but is even declared a saint, with the eponymous miracles occurring. He is oblivious to it all, intent on merely surviving. Astur mixes in the story of Marcelino’s hard childhood, local myths and local anecdotes as well as a view of life in a remote part of the country.

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