Fire and Knowledge: Fiction and Essays

Peter Nadas, Author, Imre Goldstein, Translator , trans. from the Hungarian by Imre Goldstein. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $26 (391p) ISBN 978-0-374-29964-4

Hungarian author Nádas is the kind of writer who manages to be wry without being funny—the graveyards of Europe's recent past are too fresh for that. His trenchant works fit comfortably into a continental literary tradition of high seriousness that encompasses writers as disparate as W.G. Sebald, Thomas Bernhard and Imre Kertész. A palpable literary hero in Germany, Nádas has produced novels of Proustian theme if not length (A Book of Memories ). This volume collects shorter pieces from 1962 to 2000. Essays and stories in one volume can strike Americans as an uneasy fit, but Nádas's essays are so distinctively associative that they have the force of stories. Judging from these short works, a childhood in Stalinist Budapest left Nádas with a healthy respect for the secret, the unspoken. In the title essay, a multiple arson (someone “set fire to the four corners of Hungary”) leads an impromptu outbreak of candor on the television—in a police state, a decidedly attention-getting act. In the story “Liar, Cheater,” the consequences of a childhood lie become increasingly inscrutable. Bracing and subtle, this thought-provoking volume has a rightful place on the shelf of any serious lover of literature. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2007
Release date: 07/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 391 pages - 978-0-312-42751-1
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