Voyage to Kazohinia

Sándor Szathmári, trans. from the Hungarian by Inez Kemenes. New Europe (Random, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-0-9825781-2-4
Despite its wit and intelligence, the late Szathmári’s dystopian cult classic (originally published in Hungary in 1941) flounders in a sea of details. Gulliver (yes, that Gulliver) is alive in 1935 and employed as a surgeon on the British ship Trafalgar. After a shipwreck, Gulliver washes up on the island of Kazohinia, which is populated by bizarre inhabitants who speak a strange language that seems to have been “compiled artificially.” The populace is divided into the enlightened Hins, who wear unnerving smiles as if they were “a regular geometric feature” of the face and do not understand emotions; the “ignorant” Belohins; and the “recalcitrant” Behins. Guided along by a Hin named Zataman, Gulliver explores the island and its people, whose sense of morality and society force Gulliver to reconsider his own understanding of life, love, and death. There’s no shortage of ponderous material, but by failing to create memorable characters (or, in the case of Gulliver, recreate), the author has not produced—as Swift before him did—a timeless classic, but an intermittently interesting artifact. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/09/2012
Release date: 07/03/2012
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