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The Wall in My Head

A Life on Paper
August 2010
Image: Zsolt Bodoni

August 2010: Writing from Hungary
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This month we're touring the beguiling literary landscape of Hungary, guided by guest editor and translator extraordinaire Judith Sollosy. The comic János Háy eavesdrops on the end of an affair. Celebrated Roma writer Magda Szécsi distills the essence of Gypsy culture, while veteran Péter Esterházy shows a boy the way of the world. The great Sándor Tar dispatches a crippled man and his resentful son on a train to hell. Noémi Szécsi, winner of the Literary Prize of the European Union, tweaks a lifetime of Party loyalty. Satirist Lajos Parti Nagy confronts a huge homeless problem. Kossuth Prize winner Ervin Lázár watches a bureaucrat pledge to spread the wealth and raise the dead. Virág Erdős debuts in English with a sardonic look at charity and wealth. And playwright Mihály Kornis dramatizes self-loathing.

Elsewhere this month, France's Lewis Trondheim goes on holiday, Mongolia's B. Odgerel bird-watches, and Chile's Juan Emar visits a manic painter.

This issue was made possible by the Hungarian Cultural Center New York.

Writing from Hungary: An Introduction
By Judith Sollosy
"If you’re interested in
what makes contemporary Hungarian literature contemporary Hungarian literature, you will have to turn to someone else. All I can say is: it’s like this and it’s like that."more>>>

Lou's Last Letter to Feri's Wife 
By János Háy
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"Don’t go telling me what you told me Christine, ‘cause I’m not buying it, the thing about Feri going to T-Mobile and having them tap the voice mail on your cell phone." more>>>

Slow Freight
By Sándor Tar
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"He felt a laced-up boot kick his face, then another." more>>>

Oh, Those Chubby Genes 
By Lajos Parti Nagy
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"Three homeless individuals. Except they're the size of the embassy." more>>>

from Gypsy Mandalas
By Magda Szécsi
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"I realized early on inside my mother’s belly that I’d be born a Gypsy. The realization made me drown at least twice in the embryonic fluid." more>>>

The China Doll
By Ervin Lázár
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"'You want us to exhume her?' Mrs. Bűtös said, trembling."more>>>

from Communist Monte Cristo
By Noémi Szécsi
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"“The state police came for Great Granddad only in April, and just when he’d made such a nice adjustment to the people’s republic and its tattered legitimacy!" more>>>

Kornél Esti's Bicycle Or: The Structure of the World
By Péter Esterházy
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"That rotten, stinking thief got on the bicycle carefully, respectfully, that’s great, he said, first I pick up speed, and with that, picking up speed, he took off quick as lightning towards the main road." more>>>

Blessed Margaret
By Virág Erdős
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"To a guy looking like the law was after him she gave Pest, and to some other homeless sorts, she gave Buda." more>>>

The Toad Prince
By Mihály Kornis
Translated by Judith Sollosy
"Nobody is hated as much as I. Every day when I go to school, I think this will be the last." more>>>

Also in this Issue: 

Farniente Thumbfrom Farniente 
By Lewis Trondheim
Translated by Edward Gauvin

"'If I died, would you find another woman to marry?'
'Do you want the truth, or do you want me to tell you what you want to hear?'" more>>>

from Ayer 
By Juan Emar
Translated by Megan McDowell
"If they show up, one by one I will grab them by the neck with my left hand and, with that machete in the right, I’ll stir their guts until they fall down dead, dead, dead!" more>>>

The Sound of Pigeons in Flight 
By B. Odgerel
Translated by Simon Wickham-Smith
"The sound of pigeons in flight
is the everyday beauty of the sky." more>>>

Book Reviews 
I Curse the River of TimeI Curse the River of Time 
by Per Petterson 
Translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund
Graywolf Press, 2010

Reviewed by Mythili G. Rao

"Newly diagnosed with stomach cancer, Arvid’s mother has left Norway for her hometown in Denmark, and Arvid, burdened with a host of ailments of his own, has followed her, his intentions unclear."more>>>

03 Cover03
by Jean-Christophe Valtat
Translated from the French by Mitzi Angel
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010

Reviewed by Emma Garman 

"A lyric from The Smiths sums up the narrator’s attitude toward feelings: 'And if the day came when I felt a natural emotion/ I’d get such a shock I’d probably lie/ in the middle of the street and die'" more>>>

The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry

Recent Dispatches

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The two of us met during a particularly gritty winter in our first year of graduate school at Brown University. While Chana, an Israeli fiction writer, translator and scholar had just begun working on her PhD in Israeli and Palestinian Comparative Literature, I was completing my MFA in Fiction at the Literary Arts department. Given her background as a Jewish, Israeli writer and mine as a Muslim, Iranian fiction writer we quickly developed a dialogue about literature’s potential to prov
ide a space for confronting some of the more challenging questions of identity and politics that define the contemporary Middle East. more>>>

From the Translator: Why I Translate the Work of Andrei Sen-Senkov

By Peter Golub

This essay is written as an accompaniment to the poem “Drawings on a Soccer Ball,” but since this poem is a good representation of Sen-Senkov’s work in general I would like to write broadly about my experience with his work as a whole.  

I first met the author in 2007 in Moscow, and have been translating him ever since. I was immediately drawn to the work because it struck me as unique in its playfulness, simplicity, and sadness—a childish simplicity applied inventively to a wide range of subjects. more>>>

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