cover image A Little Hungarian Pornography

A Little Hungarian Pornography

Peter Esterhazy / Author, Judith Sollosy / Translator Northwes

Although presented as a novel, this book (completed in 1983) by acclaimed Hungarian author Esterhazy (Book of Hrabal) reads more like a series of journal entries, political jottings and reminiscences. But the fragments are linked by the use of pornography as a metaphor for yielding disgracefully to--and becoming complicit in--oppression. Lascivious acts are made to stand for cowardice, compromise and the mendacious quality of life in the era of Janos Kadar, Hungary's pro-Russian Communist leader. Images of the body, notably those of seductive, compliant or degraded women, occur frequently as Esterhazy juggles the languages of power (the officialspeak of the state and of those who comply with it) and freedom (sexuality and relief from the lies of words). Figures from Hungarian history--literary, political and mythical--make appearances and are occasionally explained in footnotes. At the end of the book, Esterhazy explains why he writes: ``In short, I write for pleasure, out of fear, for freedom and out of freedom.'' Perhaps that goes as far as anything can toward explaining this book, a strange, often provoking manifesto written with extreme indirection, as if the very idea of clarity itself were obscenely coercive and an affront to the idea of an unfettered self. (Oct.)