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Sunflower (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – August 14, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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"Maybe I should just write, "Read Sunflower" and leave it at that...Krudy has been compared to his great contemporaries (Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Joseph Roth) and his great successors (Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez). Other comparisons come to mind. His work purrs with the fin-de-siecle urbane eroticism in Arthur Schnitzler's stories. His shifting viewpoints and streams of consciousness recall Virginia Woolf. Like Kafka, he's willing to let dream and reality mingle. He's ironic and wise about the human heart and life's futility, like Chekhov. His fond portrayal of rural life evokes the Levin scenes in Anna Karenina...Sunflower is an erotic carnival...The more translations of this untranslatable genius there are, the closer we'll be to his shimmering, melancholy world." --Los Angeles Times
“Gyula Krudy…a Hungarian Proust.” —The New York Times (Charles Champlin)
“Gyula Krudy, a master of Hungarian prose…” —The New York Times (Ivan Sanders)
"[Krudy's] literary power and greatness are almost past comprehension...Few in world literature could so vivify the mythical in reality...With a few pencil strokes he draws apocalyptic scenes about sex, flesh, human cruelty and hopelessness." —Sándor Márai
“For those who like Hungarian music enough to give Hungarian writing a try, I’d particularly recommend Gyula Krudy’s novel Sunflower, set in the marshy, birch-covered region of northeast Hungary…Historian John Lukacs has compared Krudy’s writing to the sound of a cello.” —Music Web International (Lance Nixon)
“Krudy writes of imaginary people, of imaginary events, in dream-like settings; but the spiritual essence of his persons and of their places is stunningly real, it reverberates in our minds and strikes at our hearts.” —The New Yorker (John Lukacs)
“There were few outside, actual events in Krudy’s life…he was always conscious of his landed gentry origins yet he preferred the company of the poor, the simple, the dispossessed… he spent most of his life in the capital…He knew every street, every inn, almost every house. For him Budapest was Paris and London, Rome and New York; I don’t think he spent more than a few months of his entire life away from Hungary.” —Paul Tabori
“Gyula Krudy’s luminous and willful pastoral, people with archaic, semi-mythical figures–damned poets and doomed aristocrats, dreamily erotic hetaerae and rude country squires–is pure fin-de-siècle, art nouveau in prose for which I can’t think of a real Anglo-Saxon or even Celtic-English literary equivalent… approach him and his Sunflower as a happy stumbling on an extraordinary attic of the rambling house of the European imagination, strangely lit, and crammed with richly faded dreams.” —The Hungarian Quarterly (W.L. Webb)
Top Customer Reviews
Eveline is also joined by her best female friend, Malvina Maszkerádi, a wealthy cosmopolitan heiress who is a bit caustic for the countryside. Kálmán, Eveline's beau, also follows her to Hideaway. Rural life is full of beautiful dreams, epic loves, and constant torment. Everything is poetic and doomed, and described so vividly and mythically as to bring the reader himself into the same dream Miss Eveline is experiencing.
Krúdy lived at a time when the Hungary of his youth was disappearing. Growing up in the Birches, the rural area where Sunflower is set, he spent most of his adult life in Budapest writing about the countryside and the old Hungarian ways. Eveline, and Álmos-Dreamer, are the foundation of those ways--cold winters spent wrapped in furs in front of the fire, reading and drinking local wine; paying respect to the old and debauched country squire; leaving behind the unfortunate acquaintances one has made in the city.
The melancholy, and the bursts of life amid the melancholy, Krúdy captures them both with mythical and moving language. Sunflower is like a sea to dive into and swim around in, not a book for wading in or just dipping a toe.
I say 'nominally the story of' because there is little else that happens, and thus the real focus of Krúdy's work is the Hungarian countryside and the manners of its people. Published in 1918, the setting of 'Sunflower', although no dates are given in the text, seems to date back to before the turn of the century, to an idyllic, carefree Hungary - or so it must have appeared to the war-weary, defeated nation at the end of WWI. Krúdy leaves me with the impression that 'Sunflower' was a time of landed gentry and their servants, of cultural mores that were observed as much in flouting them as by observing them (especially by the upper echelon of society), and of a rigid class structure where every person had their place and was content in it.
As such, 'Sunflower' has romantic, fairy-tale quality to it. Where Krúdy shines is as an evocative landscape painter - there were times when his descriptions of the natural world brought back rural memories of my own, even though the places I remember are a world away from his.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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