A glimpse of Hungarian literature that caters to multiple tastes

With final exams fast approaching, reading for fun is probably not on the top of your list of priorities. However, if you do decide to take a break from those nasty notes and PowerPoint presentations, why not try something different? Say… Hungarian literature? The Saint has gathered a few of our favourite titles for you. The following selection is designed to cater to multiple tastes. It is for lovers of classical literature or history as well as for those seeking nothing more than nail-biting excitement. We hope you like what we’ve chosen!
Dezső Kosztolányi: Kornél Esti
Kornél Esti (meaning Kornel of the Night) is without doubt on of the most loveable and exciting characters of the whole of Hungarian literature. He’s an alter ego of the author, an imaginary duplicate who lives the life the author cannot. He lives a life we perhaps all yearn for sometimes, but the constraints of society (and reality) do not allow for it. It’s a life of travel and adventure, of poetry, love, passion, of sweet, sweet decadence, and of all things forbidden. Kornél Esti is both angelically pure and the worst kind of evil at the same time and the stories he tells lie somewhere on the line between reality and fantasy. The work is essentially a series of short stories that are linked together by the figure of the main character. The stories can be read and understood independently as well which makes them ideal for reading during short study breaks.
György Faludy: My Happy Days in Hell
How can you write about the terror of Jewish labour camps with intelligence and even occasional humour? Read My Happy Days in Hell to find out. Faludy is one of our most acclaimed contemporary poets. He spent three years in a labour camp during the Hungarian holocaust and this book is his recollection of that period. Written in a very engaging style, it doesn’t just present events, but also takes you through the thought processes and emotions of someone who experienced (and survived) the labour camps.
Jenő Rejtő: The Lost Battleship
If you’re looking for something more light-hearted, try Rejtő. His fictional novels are of the unputdownable kind and they are infused with a very unique (and absolutely brilliant) sense of humour as well. The Lost Battleship is a crime adventure centred on the figure of Dirty Fred, who (having gambled away all his money) steals a battleship, and with a group of adorable scoundrels goes in search of a lost member of the French Foreign legion. Complications of the highest order ensue, the most unbelievable things happen and you grow utterly fond of the characters in the meantime.
Antal Szerb: The Pendragon Legend
I was actually going to recommend another novel by Antal Szerb, but somebody once told me that some books you should discover for yourself, so… read The Pendragon Legend first, then discover all the other works of the author for yourself. Promise, it’s a journey you won’t regret! The Pendragon Legend is one of those lucky cases when a highly intelligent and acclaimed person decides to write something entertaining. It is a story where intellectual meets real world, a bit of a mystery, a bit of Gothic, a bit a caricature of Gothic, a bit comic, highly captivating. János or John Bátky, a young scholar doing research in london, is invited to the castle of the earl of Pendragon, where all sorts of mysterious events happen… and the game is on!
So guys, here is my advice. Take a break from the textbooks and studying and allow a moment or two of relaxation. Do yourself a favour and order some Hungarian literature from Amazon (or check out what the library offers in its selection), curl up in your favourite blanket with a cup of ginger-lemon tea on a rainy afternoon and start reading.


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