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Journey by Moonlight Paperback – 1 Jan 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press (1 Jan 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1901285502
  • ISBN-13: 978-1901285505
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Antal Szerb was born in 1901 into a cultivated Budapest family. He obtained a doctorate in German and English Literature and was a prolific scholar, writing numerous books on drama, poetry and literary history, including the still-influential "History of World Literature" (1941). His first novel, "The Pendragon Legend", pub­lished in 1934, is set in London and Wales. "Journey by Moonlight" appeared in 1937, followed in 1942 by "Oliver VII" and "The Queen's Necklace". Szerb died in the forced-labour camp at Balf in January 1945.

"A writer of immense subtlety and generosity, with an uncommonly light touch which masks its own artistry. His novels transform farce into poetry, comic melancholy into a kind of self- effacing grace ... Antal Szerb is one of the great European writers" Ali Smith

"Szerb is a master novelist, a comedian whose powers transcend time and language, and a playful, sophisticated intellect" Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

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Review

'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, 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

'Despite the darkness of its themes and the European history that haunts it, Journey by Moonlight manages to be both comic and beautiful' Megan Stephan, Daily Telegraph

'[A] most important document regarding the opinions and literary orientation of the author's generation' --Miklos Szabolsci, History of Hungarian Literature

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 -- Despite the darkness of its themes and the European history that haunts it, Journey by Moonlight manages to be both comic and beautiful. MEGAN STEPHAN Daily Telegraph -- (A) most important document regarding the opinions and literary orientation of the author's generation. --MIKLOS SZABOLSCI History of Hungarian Literature (1964)

About the Author

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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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By clear-eyed reader on 6 Jun 2002
Format: Paperback
Journey by Moonlight is deservedly a classic of 20th century Hungarian literature and a very great novel. It combines realistic depiction of middle class Budapest manners and mores with a profound sense of the darker forces at work in all of us beneath the veneer of civilisation (forces which were to erupt and deprive the author of his life in a Nazi labour camp a few years after he published this book). Every character is drawn with superb elegance and depth, and the parallel journeys of Mihaly and Erszi are astonishing in their desperate intensity and danger. I lived every second of their pathetic nights of crisis with them and was genuinely relieved by the ironic conclusion.
This book is far more than an accomplished comedy of manners, though it may be read as simply that. Its complex nesting of love-triangles denotes the presence of the muse in, ultimately, nightmarish mode. I believe it is a model and precursor for Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles, mention of which immediately calls attention to this work's superior quality as literature and imagination. Antal Szerb deserves our love and gratitude for depicting civilisation and its discontents with a loving mockery counterbalanced by a clear sense of the darkness and menace implicit in civilisation's overthrow (or latent in its roots). He knew so much and spoke so well, we are fortunate to have inherited this much of his genius.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Philip Woods on 23 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Judging by all the 5 star reviews this book has received, I feel that I must be at fault for not fully appreciating it. Perhaps you need to have more sympathy for the Hungarian bourgeois mentalities it is built around: romanticism, fascination with death/suicide, and the love/hate relationship with the predictability of bourgeois life. I loved the start, the idea of a honeymoon in romantic Venice threatened by the groom's yearning for going off the beaten track on his own in a random search for something lost from the friendships of his youth. But after that the novel, although readable and interesting enough (particularly the Italian locations), could not really hold my attention. The hero is too lacking in direction (swayed this way and that by events and people) to be attractive, and the plot has too many bizarre coincidences to convince. Still worth reading as a modern Hungarian classic.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Aug 2001
Format: Paperback
Though Szerb may not be the best known Hungarian author in the Western part of the world, he was a genius of rare literal quality. This book is not a great novel, but it tells so much about the country and its occupants during the last years of a forever vanished era. His prose is really elegant which carries you through the not too complicated story about a young man looking for himself - and love -, for the meaning of life (which, as it turns out doesn't exist), and for the rightness of love and being loved. It's an easy read - but on the surface. If you dig deeper and don't give in his charming prose, you will find yourself in the middle of a journey all of us has to take. Not a pleasant trip, but the eternal sadness is washed away by clever thoughts and his ability to see and to make you see the brighter side of this journey. Quiet sadness wrapped in charm with wit about life on earth. He echoes thoughts we all have considered and dares to say it aloud. It's not original: you will find no new information about life and its associates, but he at least tells you something. You are not alone. Not a beach book, but a great friend for brown and lightless nights.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 11 Jun 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most absorbing books I have read this year - there was no way I could put it down until I got to the end of it. Peopled with unforgettable characters like every one of us, this is a tale of love, death, individuality, courage, and conforming. The main characters are on a honeymoon trip in Rome, where they talk about their past lives and the people that affected them. There comes a point where the past and present meet, when it is not possible for love or life to continue; each character must make a choice to decide his or her own fate. The language is beautiful and the whole novel has eerie, Gothic undertones as we follow characters to their death, to isolated houses and mountains where they make an attempt to escape from a common, ordinary world. The language flows beautifully and makes you think about your own life as if you were being swept along by a stream of wisdom. This was wonderful, touching and self-reflective...highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By V. G. Harwood on 20 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the beautifully written tale of Mihaly, his lost youth with his friends Tamas and Eva and his marriage in later life to Erszi. The story starts simply enough with the couple on honeymoon in a country (Italy) which Mihaly has always thought of as a "grown up destination" associating it in his mind with adult things "like the fathering of children". The honeymoon is disrupted by the arrival of a friend from Mihaly's youth which leads him into a crisis which ultimately makes him desert his new wife and begin the "journey by moonlight" of the title. Beautifully depicted, both Mihaly's and Erszi's journies from Italy to Paris and ultimately back to their home towns is a journey of discovery of their selves. The themes of impermanence and nostalgia lend a bitter-sweet tinge to the story until the characters come to their final acceptance of the fact that they have a role to play; just one of many in their lives, but that they must play it. Thus, Mihaly's fate is to return to business and Erszi to the position of wife to a wealthy husband.

There is the sense of the fact that Mihaly and Erszi are travellers through their own lives. Consider Mihaly's "I still feel I am committing a mortal sin at every station where we don't get off. There's nothing more frivolous than travelling by train. One should go on foot, or rather in a mail-coach, like Goethe" He wants to progress slowly through his life and not miss a thing. Sadly, the train and inexorable rush of time is pulling him onwards and subverting this desire.

I had the sense when I was reading this book that it was a "worthy" book of the "high art order" as the translator notes. There's lots to discover in it, in varying subtexts and strands to the story.
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