Home > About reading, Hungarian Literature, Personal Posts > My Hungarian Könyvespolc (Bookshelf)

My Hungarian Könyvespolc (Bookshelf)

As mentioned in my entry about my literary escapade in Budapest, I gathered some names while traveling. There’s a great list of Hungarian writers on Wikipedia; my list isn’t here to compete with what Wikipedia can provide.  It’s a personal list, a reminder of the names that caught my eyes.

I visited Mór Jókai’s residence in Balatonfüred where I learnt he was the most famous Hungarian writer of the 19th century.



As I’d never heard of him, I had to check him out later on. Only Rêve et vie is available in French but he did write a lot of novels. I wonder why they aren’t translated.

I’ve also visited the Petőfi Sándor museum. Sándor Petőfi (1823-1849) was something like the Hungarian Lermontov (1814-1841). Both were poets, died young and were in the military. Sándor Petőfi was a renowned poet and only 26 when he disappeared during the war following the Hungarian revolution of 1848. He’s considered as Hungary’s national poet. I’m curious about his poetry –although he’s a Romantic—but I wonder how Hungarian poetry can be successfully translated into French without losing too much.

Of course, I spent some time in a bookstore and came back with books:


I’m looking forward to read them, especially Colours and Years because it’s written by a woman. Apart from these, my TBR of Hungarian literature consists of a few other novels:

  • Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb
  • Oliver VII by Antal Szerb
  • Epépé by Férenc Kárinthy
  • N.N. by Gyula Krúdy that I intend to read with Passage à l’Est in July
  • Fateless by Imre Kertész that I’ll read in September with Caroline

I know I should read The Door by Magda Szabó and Satantango by László Krasznahorkai but every time I’ve had them in hand in a bookstore, I’ve put them down. Dark and daunting. I’m not sure they’re for me. I’d rather read Journey Around My Skull by Frigyes Kárinthy.

Here’s a list of writers I want to explore, the problem is time, time, time…

Writer   In English In French
Endre Ady 1877-1919 Neighbours of the Night. Selected Short Stories
Iván Bächer 1957-2013 Magyar Menu
Miklos Banffy 1973-1950 The Transilvania Trilogy La Trilogie de Transylvanie
Adam Biro Two Jews on a Train: Stories from the Old Country and the New.One Must Also Be Hungarian Deux Juifs voyagent dans un train
Peter Esterházy 1950- The Glance of Countess Hahn-Hahn (down the Danube)Celestial HarmoniesShe Loves Me L’œillade de la comtesse Hahn-HahnHarmonia cælestisUne femme
Géza Gardonyi 1963-1922 Eclipse of the Crescent Moon
Mór Jókai 1825-1904 The Man With The Golden Touch Rêve et vie
Margit Kaffka 1880-1918 Colours and Years. A Novel Couleurs et années
Győrgy Konrád 1933- The Case Worker Départ et retour
Endre Kukorelly 1951- Je flânerai un peu moins
Gyula Krúdy 1878-1933 The Charmed Life of Kázmér RezedaThe Adventures of Sinbad N.N.
André Lorant Le perroquet de Budapest : une enfance revisitée
Kálmán Mikszáth 1847-1910 St Peter’s Umbrella. A Novel Le parapluie de Saint Pierre
Ferenc Mólnar 1878-1952 The Paul Street Boys Les gens de la rue Paul (jeunesse)Liliom ou la vie et la mort d’un vaurien pour le moment. (théâtre)
Zsigmond Móricz 1879-1942 RelationsBe Faithful Unto Death L’épouse rebelle
Péter Nádas 1942- Parallel Stories Histoires parallèles
Petőfi Sándor 1823-1849 Selection From Poems Nuages
János Székely 1901-1958 L’Enfant du DanubeLes infortunes de Svoboda
Lajos Zilahy The Dukays Les Dukays

If someone is interested, you can find my billets about Hungarian books filed under the category Hungarian literature. (Sándor Márai, István Örkény, Zsigmond Móricz, Dezső Kosztolányi, Frigyes Karinthy, Antal Szerb, Milán Füst)

Do you know any of these writers? If yes which ones and who would you recommend?

  1. April 25, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    I’ve read Journey by Moonlight. Liked it but it was a little too romantic for me. I looked up The Dukays and saw that this is a trilogy. Are you going to tackle all three books?


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Will I read the three books? Yes if I like the first one well enough.


      • May 2, 2015 at 6:17 pm

        It seems to be available in English in a version that includes all three books. I noticed that it was 800 plus pages so I emailed the publisher and they confirmed that the book includes all three in the trilogy.


        • May 3, 2015 at 9:59 am

          That’s good to know. From Anna Amundsen’s comments below, it really seems like a great read.


  2. April 26, 2015 at 5:01 am

    What a great post, Emma. It seems like I should look more closely into Hungarian literature.
    When I was young I got a book by Fodor Sandor as a birthday present. It was about a giant dwarf who lived in a forest and the illustrations were so beautiful, I still remember them. Wikipedia tells me the original name of the book is Csipike, az óriás törpe (Cipi, this giant dwarf – my translation).
    I’m so envious you got to visit Budapest.

    I’ve added The Door to my TBR. I love “dark and daunting” and it seems to be something I would enjoy. The Transilvania Trilogy was recommended to me a while back. I want to read that too. I think I need to go shopping for more books soon. 🙂


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks Delia. I haven’t heard of Fodor Sandor. Do you speak Hungarian?

      I’m not sure I’ll ever start Szabó and Krasznahorkai. I don’t I’m the right reader for their books.


      • April 27, 2015 at 4:09 am

        I don’t speak Hungarian, Emma, but there are communities of Hungarians in Romania, especially in the western part of the country, near the border with Hungary. I used to hear the language quite often when I visited my relatives who live in that area.

        If that’s how you feel, you’re probably right. Life’s too short to spend it reading books we might not enjoy.


        • April 27, 2015 at 10:27 pm

          I didn’t know you were from Romania, that makes sense.


  3. April 26, 2015 at 6:03 am

    Ah, I love this. I love visiting writer’s houses, even if I have never even heard of them.

    I think your instinct is right – Krasznahorkai would be no fun for you, at least the four I have read. Banffy sounds more like your kind of writer. Still, who knows. So much to explore on your list.


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      I love visiting writers’ houses too and like you, even if I don’t know the writer. Unfortunately for me, a lot of things were only written in Hungarian in both museums. (especially the Petőfi Sándor museum)


  4. April 26, 2015 at 8:11 am

    I’m also planning to read Miklos Banffy’s Transylvania trilogy (after all, I have family and friends in Transylvania), but first I have to find it… not so easy.


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      It’s available in French and not even OOP…


  5. April 26, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Nice post, Emma. I’ve read Journey by Moonlight, which I liked a great deal. Have you read Szerb’s The Pendragon Legend? I started with Pendragon, but Journey is my favourite of the two Szerb novels I’ve read so far. There’s something very wistful about it. You’ll enjoy it, I think.

    Satantango is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Very dark, but brilliant, and certain scenes remain etched in my memory…


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      I’ve read and written a billet about The Pendragon Legend. Excellent book. (Max reviewed it as well)
      I’m looking forward to reading Journey by Moonlight.

      So you liked Satantango too. Hmm. You make me think about it again.


      • April 27, 2015 at 9:27 am

        Satantango is extraordinary, but it’s a dense read. I seem to recall Max referring to it as a mudslide of a novel, which is pretty spot on! It’s also a drunken dance of a novel – the characters get through copious quantities of palinka, a potent fruit brandy.


        • April 27, 2015 at 10:29 pm

          I’ve read Max’s review and although it sounded like a great book, it seemed more like something I should read than something I’d want to read.


  6. April 26, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    I love these lists. They make me realize just how many worthy writers exist out there.

    Such lists do also frustrate me. There is so little time to read.


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      I know. I feel the same about these lists. It’s like being in a great restaurant where the whole menu is appealing and yet, you have to choose one dish…


  7. April 26, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Great. I’m less frustrated that I may not have time to read all those than that I may not ever get to Budapest. Now that would be a disappointment.

    I have read works by a few of those names and have others on the to be read pile, but most are a mystery to me. I did read Mór Jókai’s short novel (The Tower of Dago), and while I didn’t think it was great, it had an incomparable atmosphere that has stuck with me. How great that you visited his house! The Esterházy Danube book I found tedious and disappointing, but what do I know?

    Finally, at this point, I’m sure I don’t need to mention again my enthusiasm for Bánffy, but there – I just did.


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      I hope you’ll have the opportunity to visit Budapest one of these days. It’s worth the trip.

      Mór Jókai spent 19 years of this life in this house and a lot of writers were invited. He stopped living there when his wife died, it was too painful to live there without her.
      I love visiting these places.

      To be honest, I’m less attracted by Hungarian books written after WWII. I think I’ll start Esterházy with Une femme. Less daunting.

      Thanks again for reminding me about Bánffy.


  8. April 26, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Thoughtful and informative post, Emma, thank you. I very much liked Kertész, Esterházy, and Nádas. Not quite as much with Konrád, but I think that may have been the specific book – I need to read something else by him. Look forward to reading what you and Caroline think about Fateless.


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      I’m not looking forward to reading Fateless because the theme of the book is difficult and upsetting. So I’m glad Caroline organises this readalong, it will push me to read it. I expect it to be good.
      Which Esterházy would you recommend?


      • April 27, 2015 at 2:08 am

        I loved Celestial Harmonies, with so many stories going on and the Esterhazy family history folded into it, but it is a doorstop of a book. The Book of Hrabal is also wonderful, a wife in a quandary, angels who could be mistaken for secret service agents, and God taking sax lessons from Charlie Parker.


        • April 27, 2015 at 10:30 pm

          Hmm I’m not sure about a book where God is taking sax lessons. Usually that kind of things puts me off. I’m sticking with Une femme for the first book.


          • April 28, 2015 at 4:53 am

            That one I’ve haven’t read – hope you enjoy it!


  9. April 26, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I really enjoyed Gyula Krúdy’s “Sinbad,” but my favorite on the list that I’ve read is “Relations” by Zsigmond Móricz. I would now list it as one my favorite books, all-time. (I read the Corvina edition you pictured.)


    • April 26, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      How exciting to know that about Relations. I really liked his novel L’épouse rebelle. He’s got a great style and I loved his sense of humour.

      The three books I bought are published by Corvina.


  10. April 27, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks for the great list, Emma! Margit Kaffka has been on my list of authors to check out already for a while, but so far I haven’t managed to lay hands on any of her books in a language that I can read – and they aren’t few! The German editions have been out of print for nearly fifty years 😦

    I also know some of the other names on your list, but not too many as a matter of fact. What a shame considering that Hungary is Austria’s neighbour!

    I’m already curious to read what you will have to say about Peter Esterházy. He’s quite popular here and just brought out a new novel in a German edition: “Die Mantel-und-Degen-Version” (“Egyszerű történet vessző száz oldal – a kardozós változat“). I haven’t read anything by him yet, but he made it on my TBR list with this historical novel.


    • April 27, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      The three books I bought in English are published by Corvina. Maybe it can help you find them. Couleurs et Années is available in French, in kindle version.

      To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll like Peter Esterházy. That’s why I want to start with Une femme.


      • April 28, 2015 at 3:20 pm

        Thanks for the suggestions! I’ve already come across books published by Corvina during several online researches – also in German, but it seems that they aren’t available through my usual channels, ie I can’t order them here. Besides, I checked again and there’s one book of hers availabe in German translation. It has been published in Vienna in 2009. 🙂


        • April 28, 2015 at 6:47 pm

          I hope you’ll manage to put you hands on the one you want.


  11. N@ncy
    April 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Great list about books I would never have found! I enjoy discovering books from another country and will look at our link to Hungarian Literature.


    • April 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks Nancy. If you’ve never read any Hungarian writer, I recommend Skylark by Deszö Kosztolanyi. It’s marvelous.


      • N@ncy
        April 27, 2015 at 10:44 pm

        Wonderful….I see that Skylark is available on the Kindle. I will order it now. It will be my first Hungarian author!


        • April 27, 2015 at 11:07 pm

          Great. There’s a billet about it on my blog, if you’re interested.


          • N@ncy
            April 27, 2015 at 11:32 pm

            …I will vist asap!


  12. April 28, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Hello Emma,

    this is a great list, I must say.
    I heartily recommend ‘The Paul Street Boys’ – it is one of those wonderful childhood books that stays with you for the rest of your life. Whenever I see it or am reminded of it, I have a smile on my face.
    Lajos Zilahy is another recommendation. I had his complete works for ten years or so when I decided it was time to pick up ‘The Ducays’. (Before it I only read ‘A fegyverek visszanéznek’ [ruffly: ‘The Weapons Strike Back’] and remembered I liked it) The trilogy is a bit uneven but still well worth reading. Upon reading the first book, ‘The Ducays’, I had to read the rest as well, because I grew fond of the family and his writing. Hope you’ll enjoy it too.



    • April 28, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      I had a good feeling about the Paul Street Boys.
      As for the Ducays, I expect something like Les dames du Faubourg, a nice saga. Is it easy to read? (like a good Beach & Public transports book)


      • May 1, 2015 at 9:53 am

        I haven’t read Les dames du Faubourg so I cannot compare, but it certainly is a great saga. Very easy to read; very humorous.. (the first part, that is; the second and the third are a bit tougher, of course, because of the war)


        • May 3, 2015 at 10:00 am

          Sounds like a perfect summer read!!


  13. April 28, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Satantango was my book of the year for 2012, but it is very, very dark. You have to be in the mood for that.

    Szerb is one of my favourite writers.

    I have the Banffys, but haven’t tried him yet. Looks good though.

    The Door as you probably know I thought was fairly terrible.

    Otherwise, great list. I am a bit jealous, Hungarian literature is much more widely translated into French than English I think.

    Oh! I’ve read some Krudy short stories, he’s good. Apparently there’s a word for the tone he sets, Krudyesque, a kind of gentle wistfulness or something. I’ve not read enough yet to have a good feel for exactly what it means so I may have got that slightly wrong.


    • April 28, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Thanks Max. You’ve tried several of the authors on the list, you’ve read quite a few Hungarian books.
      I don’t know if there are more Hungarian books translated into French. They don’t translate the same ones, that’s all.


  14. May 3, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Oh – you had a wonderful stay! I love to visit author’s or painter’s houses as well.
    And the list is most useful. I have a few of the books you mention but only a very few.
    I’m so tempted to read the Banffy and downloaded the trilogy for only 2.99 (Euro). But it’s so long. I have a feeling that there’s even more translated into German than into French.
    Thanks for the link, Emma.


    • May 3, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      We did have a wonderful stay.

      The Banffy trilogy sounds fantastic but like you the length holds me back.
      There’s a good chance that you find more books available in German. I’d say “lucky you” but I still have a nice pile to read before I can complain about not having enough books in French.


      • May 4, 2015 at 7:47 am

        I’ve got a few authors, I haven’t come across in other translations Erno Szep.


  15. May 10, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Wonderful post and project. I’ve read Sandor, Kertesz and I have one book by Nadas on my shelf. You’ve introduced me to new Hungarian authors. Thanks!


    • May 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks Kinna.
      Which ones did you read and which one do you have on the shelf?


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