Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb

This is a Hungarian novel from 1937. I don’t really know much about it; I found it while I was sorting books into some new bookshelves. It’s the kind of thing I can imagine myself buying, but I don’t actually remember doing so. But it had lots of glowing blurbs on the back, including one from litblogging’s favourite Anglo-Hungarian (Hungaro-Briton?) so I thought I’d give it a go.

And I enjoyed it. It feels very much of its time. Not in a bad way; in fact there was a pleasant sense of recognition that ah, this is one of those European inter-war novels. Kazantzakis, Lawrence and Hesse spring to mind. The characters don’t actually spend that much of the book having earnest conversations about death and sex and love, but you feel they might start at any minute. It’s fundamentally serious and rather highly-strung: which is probably a fair reflection of Europe between the wars politically as well as artistically.

Which makes it sound like it might be rather hard work, but it’s not; it’s quite short, it moves along at a fair clip, and it’s full of striking imagery. While I wouldn’t necessarily want to be stuck on a desert island with any of the characters, they’re an engaging bunch. And while I say it’s fundamentally serious, it’s also quite funny.

Anyway, I’m not going to attempt to offer any kind of thoughtful analysis of it, but if you’re looking for something to read, you could do a lot worse.

» That photo, Night in a venetian alley, was posted on Flickr by Damiel and is used under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa licence. It is loosely relevant to the novel but I mainly posted it because the blog seems a bit short of pictures at the moment.

3 replies on “Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb”

I’ve reviewed Szerb’s books too on my blog. I think your desciption is a fair one. I would not want to have to cope with Mikhaly on a day to day basis but it is always fascinating to be in the company of a true intellectual. As I am not one (an intellectual) I cannot say for sure, but it seems to me this is how they behave.

Hi Frances. I was interested to read your review. As to Mihály: I don’t know whether it’s because he’s an intellectual or just neurotic :)

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