Not Art

Not Art : A Novel

3.29 (108 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 2 business days
When will my order arrive?


More than two decades have passed since Peter Esterhazy ended his book "Helping Verbs of the Heart" with the sentence, 'I will write about all that in more detail later'. In this luminous novel, he finally makes the meaning of this literary mystery clear. "Not Art" is the story of a mother whose defining communication with the world is in the language of football, a vocabulary that eclipses not only her son, but everything else. Football, in the author's next to the last book a stage and a medium for private historiography, now acts as a filter through which the world is seen, and is the root of his relationship to his mother and his mother tongue: a mother's language complex. Readers will discover 'family stories', subtly written and rounded, filled with irony, beauty, history, the Magnificent Magyars, father, grandmother, aunt, uncle, mother, life and death. There is emotion-platonic love, marital love, and a son's love for his parents. And there is the Esterhazyesque auto-reflexive textual world (Where does the author begin and end?).
Old world glamour meets fractured post-war reality in a tale that touches on many aspects of life and philosophy relevant to us today - while centering on a son's relationship to his mother and the game of football that they love. The author received the following international awards: Vilenica Prize, Slovenia (1988, 1998) Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France (1992, 1994, 2003) Prize of the Literary Festival in Rome, Italy (1993) Bjornson Prize, Norway (1995) Austrian State Prize, Austria (1999) Herder Prize, Austria (2002) Peace Prize of the German Book Trade at Frankfurt Book Fair (2004). He has also received nearly 20 awards in his native country.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 134 x 198 x 18mm | 181.44g
  • Ecco Press
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0061792969
  • 9780061792960
  • 808,289

Back cover copy


The final sentence of Helping Verbs of the Heart - was it a promise, a threat, a quote? In 1985, when Peter Esterhazy′s book came out on unnumbered, black-edged pages, this much-cited sentence seemed most likely to be the manifestation of authorial posturing. After the publication of his books on his father Celestial Harmonies and Revised Edition, this sentence and the preceding book on his mother′s death, broken up into auxiliary verbs, now gain new meaning twenty-three years later in Not Art.

Not Art is the book of the reawakened mother, a mother who knows the offside rule, and whose language, which determines her relationship to the world, is the language of football. The son only exists in relation to it, just as everything and everyone else only exists in relation to this mother′s football language. Football, in the author′s last book a stage and a medium for private historiography, now acts as a worldview, its roots in his relationship to his mother and his mother tongue: a mother′s language complex.

Readers seeking ′family stories′ will find them - in subtly written, rounded stories. Those looking for emotions will find them too: platonic love, marital love filled with tenderness, and of course love for his mother and father. And those interested in the esterhazyesque auto-reflexive textual world (where does the author begin and end) will not be disappointed either. Irony, beauty, history, the Magnificent Magyars, father, grandmother, aunt, uncle, mother, life and death, especially death, but beautifully written. And life too, of course, which comes before death.

′My mother talked her way through the entire sixties and seventies in French. Boy, even comrade sounds bearable in French. She slipped into the French language as if into a bunker. No, a bunker would be more German, concrete protection; language is a lighter form of asylum, if danger were ahead it would provide no protection, a hiding place, a hideout, a wing under which one cannot shelter. Whenever she left French she immediately moved into football. One might say my mother was on the run her whole life long. And one might also say that she was happy her whole life long.′
show more

Review quote

"A fine addition to an international fiction collection." -- Booklist "Esterhazy's prose is jumpy, allusive, and slangy... There is vividness, an electric crackle. The sentences are active and concrete. Physical details leap from the murk of emotional ambivalence." -- John Updike, The New Yorker
show more

About Peter Esterhazy

Peter Esterhazy, a member of one of Europe's most prominent aristocratic families, was born in Budapest in 1950. His books, published mostly in Europe, are considered to be significant contributions to postwar literature.
show more

Rating details

108 ratings
3.29 out of 5 stars
5 16% (17)
4 29% (31)
3 32% (35)
2 16% (17)
1 7% (8)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X