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Journey by Moonlight (Pushkin Paper) Paperback – January 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


Never off our bestseller list, this radiant novel thoroughly deserves its place here London Review Bookshop No one who has read it has failed to love it. What is so wonderful about the book is its tone and its grasp of character... There is something almost divine about this and that Szerb's great intelligence didn't force him to produce a work of arid perfectionism makes it all the more remarkable -- Nicholas Lezard The Guardian Journey by Moonlight is a burning book, a major book -- George Szirtes Times Literary Supplement Szerb belongs with the master novelists of the 20th century -- Paul Bailey Daily Telegraph May Szerb's entry into our literary pantheon be definitive -- Alberto Manguel Financial Times [A] most important document regarding the opinions and literary orientation of the author's generation -- Miklos Szabolsci History of Hungarian Literature (1964)

About the Author

Antal Szerb was born in 1901 into a cultivated Budapest family of Jewish descent. Graduating in German and English, he rapidly established himself as a prolific scholar, publishing books on drama and poetry, studies of Ibsen and Blake, and histories of English, Hungarian and world literature. His first novel, The Pendragon Legend, was writtenin 1934. Journey by Moonlight appeared in 1937, followed in 1943 by The Queen's Necklace and various volumes of novellas. He died in a forced-labour camp at Balf in January 1945.

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Product Details

  • Series: Pushkin Paper
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1901285502
  • ISBN-13: 978-1901285505
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Antal Szerb was born in Budapest in 1901. Though of Jewish descent, he was baptised at an early age and remained a lifelong Catholic. He rapidly established himself as a formidable scholar, through studies of Ibsen and Blake and histories of English, Hungarian and world literature. He was a prolific essayist and reviewer, ranging across all the major European languages. Debarred by successive Jewish laws from working in a university, he was subjected to increasing persecution, and finally murdered in a forced labour camp in 1945. Pushkin Press publishes his novels The Pendragon Legend, Oliver VII and his masterpiece Journey by Moonlight, as well as the historical study The Queen's Necklace and Love in a Bottle and Other Stories.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John Sollami on November 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
A classic in Hungarian literature, so I've learned, this work rightly deserves its vaunted status. Deceptive in style, and written almost from a Kafkaesque perspective, one feels as if one is walking in the landscape of "The Castle," but dealing with characters from Donna Tartt's "The Secret History." The blend of the two is intriguing, and the feeling this work gives of 1930s European degeneracy and ennui is alluring and, one assumes, authentic, since it was first published in 1937 but has been made available in English for the first time now. The work isn't for everyone. It can be a bit ponderous and requires a certain mindset to appreciate its subtleties and its pace. But it is well worth reading for those with a literary bent, since, without a doubt, it is a highly nuanced literary work.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Harry Stopes on September 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm afraid to say that some of the customers who reviewed this fantastic translation of a classic are terribly wide of the mark. Rix's translation certainly does retain the lyricism and beauty of the Hungarian-language original, and to suggest that his work is an "insult to Szerb" makes one wonder whether the reviewers have an ulterior motive for praising Hargitai's version at the expense of Rix.

Incidentally, as a European man I can tell that I certainly would say "I reckon." Also, has your reviewer examined the original Hungarian passage? It may well be that Tamás' language is the colloquial Hungarian equivalent of "I reckon." Len Rix is a scholar of the highest order (and a fluent speaker of Hungarian, I might add) and to suggest that he is not aware of such subtleties is laughable.

Your reviewers might also like to consider why Rix's translation was regarded as a "Book of the Year" in a number of publications, and why it was praised by none other than George Szirtes, who as they will know is a poet, critic, and Hungarian.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on November 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Mihály, the central character of this elegant and stylish novel (beautifully translated by Len Rix) seems to belong to the early continental 19th century rather than to inter-war Budapest. He is a man in his late thirties, a neurotic and Romantic character, unworldly, more at home in history than in the present, ill at ease in his bourgeois setting at home and equally ill at ease about being in his late thirties. He has a great nostalgia for the time when, as an adolescent schoolboy, he was the hanger-on of a group of unconventional young people: Tamás (who several times tried to commit suicide and eventually managed it); his sister Eva (whom Mihály adored); Ervin (another of Eva's admirers, a convert to Catholicism from Judaism); and János, a suave trickster.

The book opens twenty years later, when Mihály is on his honeymoon in Venice with his wife Erszi. Erszi had left her first husband to marry Mihály because he was `different'; he had seduced and then married her because he was trying to be `normal'. But she did not understand just how `different' he was, and he could not cope with marriage; and, besides, he is haunted by the memory of the now mysterious Eva. During a stop-over on a railway journey, Mihály makes the Freudian error of getting onto one train while Erszi is travelling on another. He is relieved to be on his own and that noone can find him. He travels from one Italian location to another - all beautifully and sometimes hauntingly described. I must not reveal the many strange, mysterious and coincidental events that happen to him; but in any case his thought processes are at least as central to the story as are the various events.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To acclaim a book as "the best Hungarian novel I have read" might seem like faint praise. Actually, between Sándor Márai and Gyula Krúdy, I have read in translation several quite good novels originally written in Hungarian. But JOURNEY BY MOONLIGHT surpasses them. Written in 1937, it deserves to be included among the best European literature of the 1930s, perhaps even a much broader time frame.

JOURNEY BY MOONLIGHT is set in the 1930s, but its atmosphere is that of the 19th Century. The novel begins with Mihály and Erzsi, both of solidly Budapest bourgeois background, on honeymoon in Italy. Mihály is not your typical protagonist. He is as much anti-hero as hero, more passive than assertive. He becomes obsessed with nostalgia for his past and paralyzed by fecklessness concerning his future and he abandons Erzsi to embark on a solo tour of Italy. The novel then traces the remainder of their "honeymoon" until each, by entirely separate paths that do however intersect once, returns to Budapest. During their journeys, each undergoes a number of psychological travails; each encounters other sexual temptations; and each is confronted several times with the choice between conformity to bourgeois values and release of himself/herself to the realm of desire. In addition, Mihály is continuously confronted with the choice between Eros and Thanatos. (For those so inclined, the novel contains abundant material suitable for psychoanalytical interpretation.)

What most distinguishes JOURNEY BY MOONLIGHT is its tone. The novel is light, playful, and ironic. Frequently Szerb's tongue is obviously planted firmly in cheek. The humor usually is under-stated, but it nonetheless elicited from me the occasional chuckle.
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