From Publishers Weekly
Hungarian author Nádas is the kind of writer who manages to be wry without being funny—the graveyards of Europe's recent past are too fresh for that. His trenchant works fit comfortably into a continental literary tradition of high seriousness that encompasses writers as disparate as W.G. Sebald, Thomas Bernhard and Imre Kertész. A palpable literary hero in Germany, Nádas has produced novels of Proustian theme if not length (A Book of Memories
). This volume collects shorter pieces from 1962 to 2000. Essays and stories in one volume can strike Americans as an uneasy fit, but Nádas's essays are so distinctively associative that they have the force of stories. Judging from these short works, a childhood in Stalinist Budapest left Nádas with a healthy respect for the secret, the unspoken. In the title essay, a multiple arson (someone set fire to the four corners of Hungary) leads an impromptu outbreak of candor on the television—in a police state, a decidedly attention-getting act. In the story Liar, Cheater the consequences of a childhood lie become increasingly inscrutable. Bracing and subtle, this thought-provoking volume has a rightful place on the shelf of any serious lover of literature. (Aug.)
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Since English-language audiences were introduced to the works of Hungarian novelist Nádas (A Book of Memories, English translation, 1997) a decade ago, the author has quickly been canonized as a latter-day Eastern European Proust or Mann for his prewar-modernist structure and detailed attention to his characters' internal conflicts. Here Nádas provides a collection of brief writingsfiction and nonfictionappearing over four decades of personal and political change. At the core of this selection are a handful of long short stories that meditate, grimly yet with a certain warmth, on serious matters: "The Lamb" considers Hungarian anti-Semitism; "Lady Klara's House," the persistence of class and its challenges to intimacy in postwar Communist society. Nádas' nonfiction chapters are similarly revealing and no less abstract, yet occasionally more illuminating into Nádas himself and on the craft of writing: "Vivisection," for example, explores the temptation to deceive when painting a nude with words; and a chapter on the (unfortunate) editing of Mann's published diaries sheds particular light on the author's influences. This gently chaotic and revealing scrapbook is a must-have for serious European literature collections. Driscoll, Brendan