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Under the Frog: A Novel Paperback – November 3, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“A delicate, seriocomic treasure.” ―Salman Rushdie
“Ferociously funny, bitterly sad, and perfectly paced.” ―A.S. Byatt
“An audacious act of creativity....Of all the young novelists working today, Tibor Fischer may be the most adept at taking chances in his work.” ―The Nation
Top Customer Reviews
The book tracks the exploits of Pataki and Gyuri, members of Hungary's elite National Basketball team from the end of WW II to and through the Hungarian Uprising against the Soviet Union in the mid 1950's.
Ostensibly railway workers, the team travels the country, usually buck naked, in a specially constructed rail car, playing basketball, chasing girls and generally avoiding anything that looks like work while desperately striving to maintain their team membership, the only thing that keeps them from experiencing first hand the blight and depression that marks the plight of the common man in post war Hungary.
Biting, satirical, often hysterically funny, the book nevertheless searingly conveys the sense of deprivation and repression that gave rise to the uprising as well as the brutality and viciousness with which it was put down.
Fischer's international reputation was built on this novel, and deservedly so. It was one of the great novels of the Cold War era.
A brilliant, haunting, truly memorable book.
Mr. Fischer's style is sometimes bold and explicit such as "Now, of course apart from the bad taste it would leave in his soul, his participaton in the Communist movement would be as welcome as a bonfire in an ammunition dump. He had as much chance of joing as a blue whale had, assuming it could make its way to Budapest." Other times, he has such a complicated sentence structure and compound adverbs and adjectives that it takes three times to read the sentence. Compounding that is a lack of clear plot. The story consists of chapter after chapter of vinettes flashing back and forth through the period. There are many references to figures and events in Hungarian history that are good to know about ahead of time in order to more fully enjoy the dialogue.
If you can get past all hat, there are many wonderful passages accurately depicting the Hungarian character and view of life such as Guryi's reaction to watching a girl jump the bridge into the Danube "there goes another one." Having lived in Hungary and experienced the culture, I never the less enjoyed the book.
Why's it so good?
First of all, it's packed with Fischer's unique sense of humor. Read the first couple sample pages; if you're not laughing, you probably won't enjoy the rest of the book. The humor is black, definitely. But there's a good chance you'll be laughing HARD nonetheless. Pranks, absurd situations, physical comedy, and wicked wordplay rule the roost.
Second of all, it's dead serious. The book is about communism and the attempted revolution in Hungary in 1956. If you want to see the absurdity and insanity of the communist system as it looked from the inside at that time, Fischer delivers. It is fascinating, shocking, and it would be unbelievable if the author didn't make it so very believable.
I haven't seen anyone mention it, but Under the Frog reads a lot like Kurt Vonnegut's best work (Slaughterhouse V or Cat's Cradle). For me, though, Fischer's book has a lot more reread value -- neither the humor nor the horror has grown thin over the many times I've read it. Highest recommendation.
The (picaresque?)Gyuri, the devil-may-care Pataki, the once debonair Elek, the urbane Jesuit Ladanyi, and Gyuri's one-true-love Jadwiga - all take shape and form with Fischer's elegant turns of phrase and understated characterization. All in all - a superb book - I've used it whenever I ran out of gift ideas, and so far, no one's complaining!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of my now favorite books, "The Thought Gang" by Tibor Fischer prompted me to read this one. It really can't be compared to The Thought Gang, but it was still good. Read morePublished 8 months ago by D. Furr
This is – I can say with some confidence – one of the very greatest, loveliest, funniest, and wisest books you've never read. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Michael Fuchs
This is one of the great books about the Cold War, but seen from the perspective of Gyuri through his teens and twenties as he survives the grim first decade of Communism in... Read morePublished on December 2, 2013 by Tandem
Very enjoyable read, a very Woody Allen-esque comedic touch. Very much in the spirit of Catch-22 and Bombardiers... definitely a hidden gem.Published on July 12, 2013 by Javier Bolanos
Read Gannon's review, which has received a well-deserved helpful rating. All I want to add is that this book is a literary gem. Read morePublished on March 25, 2013 by Joel Marks
"Under the Frog" does what most novelists aspire to - it tells a rollicking story, brings history, place and character to life, and creates it's own unique story-telling style with... Read morePublished on May 14, 2012 by Erica Fields
The worst possible place to be in is "under a frog's arse down a coal mine." That's supposedly a Hungarian proverb, and Tibor Fischer's 1993 Booker-shortlisted, Betty Trask... Read morePublished on January 18, 2010 by Biswajit Dey
I just picked up the book from Goodwill - just read the back cover and did not know what to expect - once I started reading the book there was no stopping - I could not stop... Read morePublished on April 14, 2007 by Libri Mundi