cover image Captivity


Gyorgy Spiro, trans. from the Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson. Restless Books (, $29.99 (864p) ISBN 978-1-63206-049-5

Uri, the hero of Spir%C3%B3's enormous novel, is a Jewish Candide, although the scope of his exploits suggests more of a naive Don Quixote type%E2%80%94a wide-eyed and resilient innocent, faithful to both his family and his religion. His big dream is to travel from his native Rome to Jerusalem, which he does in the course of this episodic epic. Set in the first century A.D., the novel (first published in Hungary in 2005) covers roughly the same period as Robert Graves's classic I, Claudius, but Uri is on the ground with the rabble instead of in the exalted halls of intrigue. Indeed, a good chunk of the story involves Uri and his friends' retelling the exploits of the royals. The pacing is slow but deliberate, evocative and richly detailed. Spir%C3%B3's elaborate style reflects Uri's acute observation, with the hint of a wink at the reader. Whether he is imprisoned next to Jesus Christ or is conversing with Pontius Pilate or Kainis, his ex-wife, who happens to be a faux empress, Uri remains his earnest self. Much of the novel is dedicated to Uri's everyday struggles, musings on religion, and arguments with friends. Spir%C3%B3, a Hungarian man of letters, juxtaposes the prosaic and the significant with aplomb and offers a cheeky, unique view of history through the eyes of his modest everyman. A thoroughly impressive literary feat. Agent: Marc Koralnik, Liepman Agency. (Nov.)