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Journey by Moonlight

Journey by Moonlight

Book rating: 05 Paperback Pushkin paper

By (author) Antal Szerb, Translated by Len Rix, Designed by Alessandro Belgiojoso, Afterword by Len Rix, Designed by David Pearson

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  • Publisher: PUSHKIN PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 188mm x 24mm | 300g
  • Publication date: 1 September 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1901285502
  • ISBN 13: 9781901285505
  • Sales rank: 31,928

Product description

A major classic of 1930s literature, Antal Szerb's Journey by Moonlight (Utas es Holdvilag) is the fantastically moving and darkly funny story of a bourgeois businessman torn between duty and desire. 'On the train, everything seemed fine. The trouble began in Venice ...' Mihaly has dreamt of Italy all his life. When he finally travels there, on his honeymoon with Erszi, he soon abandon his new wife in order to find himself, haunted by old friends from his turbulent teenage days: beautiful, kind Tamas, brash and wicked Janos, and the sexless yet unforgettable Eva. Journeying from Venice to Ravenna, Florence and Rome, Mihaly loses himself in Venetian back alleys and in the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside, driven by an irresistible desire to resurrect his lost youth among Hungary's Bright Young Things, and knowing that he must soon decide whether to return to the ambiguous promise of a placid adult life, or allow himself to be seduced into a life of scandalous adventure. Journey by Moonlight (Utas es Holdvilag) is an undoubted masterpiece of Modernist literature, a darkly comic novel cut through by sex and death, which traces the effects of a socially and sexually claustrophobic world on the life of one man. Translated from the Hungarian by the renowned and award-winning Len Rix, Antal Szerb's Journey by Moonlight (first published as Utas es Holdvilag in Hungary in 1937) is the consummate European novel of the inter-war period. Published by Pushkin Press for the first time in a cloth-bound hardback edition, beautifully designed by Nathan Burton. 'A writer of immense subtlety and generosity ...Can literary mastery be this quiet-seeming, this hilarious, this kind? Antal Szerb is one of the great European writers' - Ali Smith 'A novel to love as well as admire, always playful and ironical, full of brilliant descriptions, bon mots and absurd situations ...it's a book utterly in love with life' - Kevin Crossley-Holland, Guardian Books of the Year 'Just divine ...the kind of book that makes you imagine the author has had private access to your own soul' - Nicholas Lezard, Guardian 'This radiantly funny and intelligent novel ...shows its author to be one of the masters of twentieth-century fiction. Len Rix's loving translation of a book that might have remained lost to us deserves special praise' - Paul Bailey, TLS International Books of the Year 'A burning book, a major book' - Georges Szirtes, TLS Antal Szerb (1901-1945) was a writer, scholar, critic and translator born to Jewish parents but baptized Catholic. Multilingual, he lived in Hungary, France, Italy and England, and after graduating in German and English he rapidly established himself as a prolific scholar, publishing books on drama and poetry, studies of Ibsen and Blake, and histories of English and Hungarian literature. At the age of 39, Szerb wrote an authoritative History of World Literature. He wrote his first novel, The Pendragon Legend, in 1934, followed by Journey by Moonlight in 1937 and The Queen's Necklace in 1943. These, and a collection of his short stories, Love in a Bottle, are also published in English by Pushkin Press. Szerb was killed in a concentration camp in January 1945.

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Author information

Antal Szerb was born in 1901 into a cultivated Budapest family of Jewish descent. Graduating in German and English, he rapidly established himself as a prolific scholar, publishing books on drama and poetry, studies of Ibsen and Blake, and histories of English, Hungarian and world literature. His first novel, The Pendragon Legend, was writtenin 1934. Journey by Moonlight appeared in 1937, followed in 1943 by The Queen's Necklace and various volumes of novellas. He died in a forced-labour camp at Balf in January 1945.

Customer reviews

By parrish lantern 22 Feb 2013 5

"ON THE TRAIN everything seemed fine. The trouble began in Venice, with the back alleys." This is our introduction to Mihaly a Hungarian businessman on his honeymoon in Venice. Mihaly has married his wife Erzi to escape from an adolescent rebellious nature and into the arms of conformity, part of the problem faced is his newly wed bride has married him as an attempt to escape the bourgeois conformity of her life prior to meeting him. As stated in the opening lines, the trouble began with those alleys, as one night Mihaly feeling out of sorts, meanders away from the hotel they are staying at and into those alleys and is still wandering at daybreak. This is like a trial run for what happens later. As not long into the honeymoon Mihaly goes AWOL (accidently enters the wrong train), this is followed by a series of misadventures across Italy as his past catches up with him.

We then follow the journey both of these individuals make, with Erzi heading off to Paris to visit an old friend and a series of characters, one of which is the man she left to marry Mihaly, at one point she seems to be offered as part of a business transaction involving a wealthy Persian. Whilst Mihaly wallows in a combination of self-pity, nostalgia and a sense of confusion that has him bouncing from point to point, bumping into people from his past.

Mihaly as a character shouldn't inspire our sympathy, apart from his treatment of his bride, he is self-absorbed to the extent that he appears to believe no one else has an inner live, he's vain, withdrawn, has a combination of amorality & yet appears to be guilt ridden, in fact it's quite hard to find many redeeming features at all and yet you'll laugh at him, with him - you'll want to shake him up just to wake him up, and then pick him up when he falls - as he will.

This is one of those books that although a lot happens, nothing really changes, it was first published in 1937. According to Nicholas Lezard, it is "one of the greatest works of modern European literature". In some ways it reminds me of the writing of Henry Green, it has that sharp bright intellect, but is warmer, funnier and wears it's intelligence lightly.

Review quote

Never off our bestseller list, this radiant novel thoroughly deserves its place here London Review Bookshop No one who has read it has failed to love it. What is so wonderful about the book is its tone and its grasp of character... There is something almost divine about this and that Szerb's great intelligence didn't force him to produce a work of arid perfectionism makes it all the more remarkable -- Nicholas Lezard The Guardian Journey by Moonlight is a burning book, a major book -- George Szirtes Times Literary Supplement Szerb belongs with the master novelists of the 20th century -- Paul Bailey Daily Telegraph May Szerb's entry into our literary pantheon be definitive -- Alberto Manguel Financial Times [A] most important document regarding the opinions and literary orientation of the author's generation -- Miklos Szabolsci History of Hungarian Literature (1964)