Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Hungarian Literature Enthusiasm

Some enthusiasm for the Hungarian novelist Miklos Banffy, whose name I hadn't heard of before, in The Telegraph. He seems to have specialised in the already over-crowded discipline of "the end of Habsburg empire" studies too. (I was of course quite annoyed by the article because if its philistine swipes at one of my most beloved books):

Much of this ground has been covered before. Joseph Roth's The Radetzky March is rightly considered to be one of the greatest novels of the last century, and Stefan Zweig composed another bitter-sweet masterpiece, Beware of Pity, in 1939, a year before Bánffy completed his trilogy.

One might also throw in, for historical purposes, Robert Musil's long, unwieldy novel, The Man Without Qualities. But that is a cold book, driven by philosophical inquiry. You can love Roth and weep at Zweig, so warm are their books. Musil, being uninterested in human character, forfeits the reader's sympathy even though he has, unaccountably, gained a reputation.

He probably means Stefan Zweig's autobiography The World of Yesterday which I haven't read but have heard is full of sentimental nostalgia. Beware of Pity on the other hand is a very dark Freudian love story which I don't think has anything to cry about. Certainly not the dissolution of the empire.

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