The literary discovery of the year.
a hidden gem
A remarkable narrative, a real treasure, a book everyone should read. The Burning of the World is a work of superb reportage as well as being a non-fiction companion volume to Joseph Roth's classic The Radetzky March . . . The Burning of the World is a marvellous discovery with a humility and a sense of wonder that places it at more than the equal of even Robert Graves' Good-bye to All That.
(Eileen Battersby Irish Times
The strength of this book is not as an account of combat – though the few pages devoted to the subject are brilliant – but to the effect of war on one sensitive young man and on everything and everybody.
(Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
To a certain extent, World War I memoirs written from the ant’s perspective resemble one another, all mud and horror. What makes this one stand out is the author’s painterly eye for detail, his ability to evoke a vanished way of life, and his tone of voice—gentle and civilized but perfectly capable of the occasional sardonic flash.
(Henrik Bering, The Wall Street Journal
"written with a painter's eye for colour . . . [it] matters not only for its literary qualities but also for its evocation of the Austro-Russian theatre (for which we have very few accounts) during the more mobile opening phase of campaigning, when casualty rates were among the highest in the war . . . [a] story not only of madness and massacre but also of regeneration."
(David Stevenson Financial Times
The writing detailing the author's experiences in battle has an energy and sense of urgency, and the whole book is filled with the understanding that life would never be the same again...recommended for anyone interested in World War I, war memoirs, and the history of eastern Europe.
...haunting, heartbreaking, and beautifully written...[Zombory-Moldovan's] relatively short exposure to combat is conveyed with an unforgettable intensity. But this is not another chronicle of trench warfare....This is a deeply moving account of a young man's short but terrible plunge into an inferno.
(Booklist, starred review
To be in a war, within it, to know what that means, to understand the appalling and dreadful significance of all that is appaling and dreadful—such was the fate of this gentle Hungarian painter, who, with several million companions, became entangled in the First World War and was never able to free himself from its memories. He tried to do so, nonetheless; he tried to free himself from these memories--this volume is the proof of that. This is perilous reading: the reader is invited, along with the writer, the one who remembers, to take part in what happened. But this is what we must do: from sympathy, from compassion, so that the one who truly lived through all of this will not be so utterly, unbearably alone
One reads with never-ending curiosity and ever deeper emotions the recollections of a compassionate artist of the first year of World War I on the nearly forgotten Eastern front. Unlike in the West, here there were few trenches; instead, there was constant movement within which vast armies of ill-equipped and ill-trained Russians, Cossacks, Caucasians, Asians, Austro-Germans, Reich Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, and innumerable other nationalities massacred each other for causes that many, if not most participants were unable to understand.
(Istvan Deak, Columbia University)
BÉLA ZOMBORY-MOLDOVÁN (1885–1967) was born in Munkács (now Mukachevo), in the east of what was then the Kingdom of Hungary, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, he established himself as a painter, illustrator, and graphic artist. Wounded in action in 1914, he served the rest of the war in noncombatant duties. He enjoyed some renown, especially as a portrait painter, during the interwar years and was the principal of the Budapest School of Applied Arts from 1935 until his dismissal by the Communist regime in 1947. Out of official favor and artistic fashion in the postwar years, he devoted himself to the quiet landscapes in oils and watercolor that are his finest work. The writing of his recently discovered memoirs probably also dates from these years of seclusion.
PETER ZOMBORY-MOLDOVAN is the grandson of Béla Zombory-Moldován. In addition to translating The Burning of the World, he has also co-translated Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen and is currently working on an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches for the London stage. He lives in London.