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Metropole [Paperback]

Ferenc Karinthy
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

15 May 2008
A linguist flying to a conference in Helsinki has landed in a strange city where he can't understand a word anyone says.

As one claustrophobic day follows another, he wonders why no one has found him yet, whether his wife has given him up for dead, and how he'll get by in this society that looks so familiar, yet is so strange.

In a vision of hell, unlike any previously imagined, Budai must learn to survive in a world where words and meaning are unconnected.

This is a suspenseful and haunting Hungarian classic.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Telegram Books (15 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846590345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846590344
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.1 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"I don't know when I've read a more perfect novel-a dynamically helpless hero (in the line of Kafka), and a gorgeous spiral of action, nothing spare, nothing wrong, inventive and without artifice." Michael Hoffman TLS-

"A Central european classic to be discovered and relished." Eva Hoffman

"A masterpiece." Magazine Litteraire

"A stunning novel." Liberation

"With time, Metropole will find its due place in the twentieth-century library, on the same shelf as The Trial and 1984." G. O. Chateaureynaud

"Nightmare is the only word that fully captures Karinthy's hellish metropolis, but while it's definitely a tale of horror, Metropole is also funny and touching." --National Public Radio

"Nightmare is the only word that fully captures Karinthy's hellish metropolis, but while it's definitely a tale of horror, Metropole is also funny and touching." --National Public Radio

'A masterpiece.' Magazine Litteraire 'A stunning novel.' Liberation 'With time, Metropole will find its due place in the twentieth-century library, on the same shelf as The Trial and 1984.' G. O. Chateaureynaud --various

About the Author

Ferenc Karinthy was born in Budapest in 1921. He obtained a PhD in linguistics, and went on to be a translator and editor, as well as an award-winning novelist, playwright, journalist and water polo champion. He wrote over a dozen novels. This is the first novel to be translated into English.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No spoilers in this review! 15 Jun 2009
This is a stunningly good book about the nightmarish misadventures of Budai, a Hungarian linguist who, for reasons never explained, is diverted from Helsinki to an unnamed city. Here, bafflingly, considering his occupation, he can make neither head nor tail of the language, written or spoken. Deprived of this basic human need and, in the face of a population who are oblivious or even hostile to his plight he finds himself in a range of situations lovingly detailed by the other reviewers on this page who presumably want to save you the bother of reading the book. Karinthy (will someone please translate more of his work!) is clearly fascinated by language and how it gives us a hold on the world. In this city, linguistic structures appear to have fallen apart and the ramifications of this become clear towards the end.
The quotes that adorn the cover of this book are, for once, justified. If you want a reference point, Franz Kafka is an obvious one and Kazuo Ishiguro's 'The Unconsoled' but this book stands alone as a masterpiece.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern nightmare 20 Aug 2008
By Melmoth
Arriving, bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, in a foreign land, being forced this way and that by a crowd of people whose words one cannot understand, is an everyday experience in the world of EasyJet and RyanAir. The fact that it is everyday doesn't detract from its nightmarish qualities, however.

In Metropole, Budai, a linguist on his way to Helsinki for a conference, encounters this modern nightmare in its most extreme form. After leaving his plane and blearily taking the airport bus he finds himself in an almost endless city where every street, every building is thronged by representatives of the entire human multitude, none of whom Budai can understand.

Uncertain of where this new city is, unable even to hear the words of his fellow beings clearly and consistently, Budai finds himself jostling and kicking his way through life in a grim, grey metropolis. He lives - for a while, at least - in a large but characterless hotel, buys his food from the machines in a cafeteria, spends his days riding the nameless city's Metro in search of an escape and his nights either drinking in the cramped and sweaty city bars or locked away in his room, puzzling away at newspapers and telephone directories written in a script he cannot understand.

Unable to communicate with those around him, Budai's only human contact is with the woman who operates the lift in his hotel, a woman whose name he cannot even hear or pronounce consistently - is she Bebe, Ebede, Dede, Pepep, Debebe, Tyetye or Epepe?

Slowly Budai finds himself carried by the human crowd into strange religious ceremonies, into penury, into carnival and even into revolution and defeat - his only thoughts those of escape or of his unnameable new love.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nightmare vision of a city gone terribly wrong 30 July 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In Metropole, Hungarian linguist Budai travels to Helsinki for an international conference but inadvertently is placed on a flight to an un-named and unidentifiable city, where he finds himself whisked away to an hotel without his baggage. He finds himself unable to communicate with the hotel staff despite trying several languages, and because he is so tired he decides to accept the room he is offered and to sort out revised travel plans in the morning.

So begins this labyrinthine tale of abandonment in a foreign city, every traveller's nightmare, where nobody can recognise your language, where your passport has been retained by your hotel, you have no baggage and only a limited supply of money.

The city Budai finds himself in is vastly over-crowded. Budai is pushed and shoved every time he steps outside and returns from his exploratory expeditions bruised and aching. The shops are full, endless queues form in cafeterias and shops, and customers have to find what they want, then queue to pay for it and queue again to pick it up (echoes of Foyles bookshop in Charing Cross Road in times past). It is the same in the hotel. Budai is unable to make his problem known to the hotel staff owing to their knowledge of only their own language and as Budai makes sign language or draws little diagrams, the staff are already looking over his shoulder at the next customer.

Days pass, with the mystery of the location of the city and its strange language deepening all the time. Budai resorts to assaulting a policeman in order to get arrested: at least that way someone will take notice of him and perhaps call for an interpreter. All that happens however is a brief encounter with a casual and brutish system which spits him out again as quickly as it took him in.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trapped. 29 Jan 2010
An urban Robinson Crusoe rewritten by Kafka. Compulsively readable. Traps you inside the world of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Living Nighmare 20 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I will admit that although I did enjoy this novel it isn't something that will ever probably garner mass appeal. There are a number of holes as it were in the plot that aren't sufficiently explained, and within a few pages of starting this you realise how Kafkaesque this is. Budai is flying in to Helsinki to attend conferences, but somehow he ends up in some mysterious place, where the language is totally unfamiliar to him, despite the number of languages he knows.

The story continues with Budai trying to learn the language, which he never really does, and his observations of the city he has arrived in. A dystopian novel in many respects this can also be seen in some ways as an allegory of Hungary, as near the end there is an uprising that is similar in many respects to that which happened in 1956. In all the time Budai is in this city he seems to be able to find no way of escape, although there is an underground railway there seems to be no aboveground railway, and although he arrives by plane, he seems unable to find the airport.

Captured here is the hustle and bustle of modern city living, especially as we have entered the age of mega-cities, which this seems to be in this book. What I find rather incongruous in this story is the image of a tower and the building growing floor by floor day in day out. Obviously the first thing that springs to mind is the biblical Tower of Babel, but as such it has no real context to the story. As with the uprising that takes place in this, we never actually find out if it was successful or not, as all signs seem to disappear that it happened and life goes on seemingly as before. Even the end of this, although upbeat does make you wonder how Budai suddenly came across what could be his salvation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Confusion reigns in an uber-foreign culture
Everyone has come across this feeling. You go on holiday to a foreign country. You cannot understand the public signs for shops, rail tickets, toilets, directions. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating - and offensive!
I did not like this book. It was an interesting idea, but lacked plot and character development.
I found the racial descriptions of characters extremely offensive. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling!
I found myself drawn into this book, compelled to read on even though it's absolutely not my usual read. Read more
Published 18 months ago by R. Murphy
4.0 out of 5 stars terrifying and draining
I think I enjoyed this book! Read the first half avidly and got caught up in the tenseness and the character's inability to communicate. Read more
Published 18 months ago by like cooking
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
A recently translated masterpiece. What would you do if you suddenly found yourself in an unknown city, with no possibility of communication with the locals, and seemingly no means... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Rose East
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Lost Metropole
To read Metropole is to lose oneself in the story and the nightmare city it describes.

You will be absorbed within it, from the first few pages. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mark Noble
3.0 out of 5 stars For everyone to read, for some to be impressed
After all the hype that accompanied the book when it was recommended to me, I was expecting a mind-blowing intellectual feast. Sadly, it didn't happen. Read more
Published on 16 July 2011 by Agnieszka Knas
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read - may have lost something in translation.
Borrowing heavily from The Trial, but original enough to warrant its own praise, Metropole is definitely a thought provoking read. Read more
Published on 12 May 2011 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Kafka's legacy truly honoured by this brilliant, mesmerising,...
Any number of modern, nightmarish novels are given the epithet of 'Kafkaesque', but most contemporary writers pale in comparison to the truly disturbing, oppressive, claustrophic... Read more
Published on 7 April 2011 by bobbygw
4.0 out of 5 stars Alone In A Crowd
Examines the feelings and emotions we all get at times in crowded cities,that feeling of isolation,insignificance and confusion. Read more
Published on 23 Feb 2011 by Andy Vizor
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