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Reis bij maanlicht roman by Antal Szerb
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Reis bij maanlicht roman (edition 2004)

by Antal Szerb

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6422615,063 (3.97)50
Member:sneeuwvlokje
Title:Reis bij maanlicht roman
Authors:Antal Szerb
Info:Amsterdam Van Gennep cop. 2004
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:buitenlandse literatuur, hongarije, Italië

Work details

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb

  1. 10
    Van Sandor Maraï tot Magda Szabo .Klassieke Hongaarse romans uit de 20e eeuw by Jolanta Jastrze̜bska (gust)
    gust: Deze bundel essays bevat een verhelderende bespreking van deze roman.
  2. 00
    The Third Tower: Journeys in Italy (Pushkin Collection) by Antal Szerb (sorbetandstuff)
    sorbetandstuff: Antal Szerb's travels in Italy at the brink of WWII, described in The Third Tower, formed a direct influence on his novel Journey By Moonlight.
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English (20)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  Hungarian (1)  All (26)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
On honeymoon in Italy, Mihály chooses a solitary nocturnal ramble in the back alleys of Venice over the pleasures of the bridal bed. It doesn’t take a psychology guru to realise that the marriage is not off to the best of starts. His wife Erszi knows that, this being her dreamy and eccentric Mihály (rather than her practical first husband Zoltán), the explanation for his erratic behaviour is most likely complex and slightly illogical. And that’s exactly what it turns out to be.

In fact after a (not so) chance encounter with an old acquaintance - János Szepetneki – Mihály decides to recount to Erszi his obsessive youthful friendship with siblings Tamás and Éva Ulpius, to whose “ring” he belonged together with said János and the ascetic Ervin. Oiled by a bottle of Italian wine, and egged on by Erszi’s insistent questions, Mihály implicitly reveals (despite his protestation to the contrary) that his relationship with Tamás and Éva had strong erotic overtones and that this might have something to do with his strange and evident discomfiture with the marital state. What is certainly clear is that Tamás’s eventual tragic death left a long-term mark on the close coterie of friends.

This long “psychoanalytic” session reminded me of a very different novel – Murakami’s "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage" . And, like Murakami’s, this novel does develop into a “pilgrimage” of sorts - its first part ends with Mihály, not altogether innocently, contriving to catch a wrong train and separating himself from Erszi. In the subsequent parts of the book, we follow Mihály as, against the backdrop of an Italy exotic, magical, seductive and frightening, he tries to recapture the decadent aura of his youth.

Antal Szerb’s 1937 “Journey by Moonlight” (or, to give its title in its literal translation, “Traveller and the Moonlight”) is one of the best-known of modern Hungarian novels. It certainly deserves to be much better appreciated outside Szerb’s native country. Like all great classics, it is a multilayered work which lends itself to a variety of readings. It is, in its own weird way, a comedy of manners, a streak of playfully sardonic humour always bubbling just beneath the surface. It is also novel of “magical realism” written before the term was invented. It is an exploration of pre-World War II society – indeed, at its most obvious and superficial level, it presents us with a cast of characters who are all trying, unsuccessfully, to escape the bourgeoisie they find so suffocating.

But, as translator Peter Czipott points out in the insightful afterword to this Alma Classics edition, a major theme in the novel is Szerb’s exploration of “nostalgia”. What Mihály is after are the dreams and ideals of his youth, now sadly replaced by humdrum, everyday life. But is it at all possible to go back in time? At one point towards the end, one character warns another not to try to live “someone else’s life”. But, the novel seems to be telling us, our youthful selves are as distant from us as “someone else”.

Szerb was not primarily a novelist, but a literary scholar, who published respected works on the history of Hungarian and world literature. He lived for a time in Italy – his descriptions of the country are partly autobiographical but, in a quasi-postmodern twist, they also (knowingly) reflect common literary portrayals of the Bel Paese which Szerb knew so well through his studies. Indeed, one cannot help feeling that this is not the Italy of the Italians, or even that of the Rough Guides and Lonely Planet. This is, by turns, the darkly fascinating and haunting Italy of the Continental Gothic novels, the decadent Italy of fin-de-siecle writers (Mann’s Death in Venice comes to mind), Goethe’s sun-washed Land, wo die Zitronen blühn...

Journey by Moonlight might not always be an easy read, but it certainly is one which repays the effort and which is likely to reveal new depths if revisited. This Alma Classics edition is highly recommended, not only for its fluent translation, but also for its useful explanatory notes. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Aug 10, 2016 |
Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge: A Book That was Originally Published in Another Language (Hungarian) ( )
  kalbach | Apr 1, 2015 |
This book starts with a honeymoon and ends with a journey home, but passes through some interesting byways and times in between. Mihaly and Erszi part, almost by accident (but perhaps not quite) and end up as wanderers through Europe and through their own pasts.
  otterley | Mar 21, 2015 |
This is another book I can't really do justice to without re-reading. I remember this as an entrancing tale set in a dreamlike middle Europe which I enjoyed a lot. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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. (I salute Rix's wonderful translation, which makes it look as though the book was somehow written in English in the first place.) It's got everything - great travelogues, the messiest study in the world, daft, rich American art students called Millicent ("'Millicent,' he said. 'There's someone in the world actually called Millicent!'"), great jokes about suicide, and superb aperçus: "November in London isn't a month - it's a state of mind." Pushkin Press, in bringing this to our attention, have excelled themselves.
 

» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Antal Szerbprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dandoy, GyörgyiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orringer, JulieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rix, LenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Viragh, ChristinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On the train everything seemed fine.
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