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The Burning of the World: A Memoir of 1914 (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 7 Aug 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (7 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590178092
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590178096
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 82,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

The literary discovery of the year.

(Irish Times)

a hidden gem

(The Oldie)

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.

(Library Journal)

...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
 
 
(Laszlo Krasznahorkai)

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)

About the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
‘The Burning of the World’ is part of a recently discovered memoir of the Hungarian artist Bela Zombory-Moldovan. It covers a period of eight months, from the day in July 1914 that news of the declaration of war of Austria-Hungary on Serbia reaches the Adriatic resort where Zombory-Moldovan is holidaying, to his calling-up as an officer in the Royal Hungarian Army, action on the Eastern Front, injury and recuperation, and his return to Budapest in April 1915 to report for duty. The memoir gives an intensely personal and vital account of what it was like to live through these experiences. The prose style, which is simple and compelling, is skillfully rendered in translation by the author’s grandson, Peter Zombory-Moldovan. The simplicity of the description of moments of great stress, and pain, for example the author’s leave-taking of his parents before joining the regiment, enhances their poignancy. There is also a frankness in his account of the experience of war (“...secretly I felt that my duty to myself was paramount..”), which sets it apart from other books of the period.

The personal element of the narrative is enhanced by the circumstances of the memoir’s discovery and translation. The author’s widow found it in a locked strongbox after the author’s death, and kept it hidden before passing it on to her sons. The translator, Peter Zombory-Moldovan was first shown the memoir by his father in 2012. Peter’s recollections of his grandfather, that form part of the translator’s excellent introduction to the memoir, are of particular interest and poignancy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Siward Atkins on 27 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This must be every grandson's dream - to come across a yellowed manuscript by a long deceased grandfather and find a first hand account of the Great War, as moving and exciting as anything he has ever read on it, come leaping off the page at him. In 2012 this dream came true for Peter Zombory-Moldovan, the English born grandson of the Hungarian artist Bela Zombory-Moldovan, and this wonderful book is the result.

Although a fragment of a much larger memoir, the book is by itself a remarkably well structured story about the regeneration of an artist whose vision has been impaired by war. I often had to remind myself that this was not a novel but a narrative of real events. The outbreak of war finds Bela with friends at a seaside resort on the Adriatic. He reacts to the news with a mixture of slightly haughty bewilderment and genuine awe, perfectly evoking the sense of an ancient empire suddenly rocked to its foundations. Called home to Budapest to report for duty as a junior officer in the Hungarian infantry, he feels a sudden estrangement from things he once found familiar and comforting. Although fairly common in Great War memoirs, the feeling here is just the prelude to a deeper sense of estrangement Bela has on his return to Budapest after a serious head wound at the front. He quietly rages at ignorant, jingoistic newspapers and gently drifts away from uncomprehending family and friends. This too is familiar to readers of memoirs of the war, but here it is just part of a larger and more interesting story about an artist who becomes quite literally unable to paint, or even to remember what it was that he wanted to paint before the war. The war seems to have broken his life in two.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Jenkinson TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Oct. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Young Hungarian artist Bela Zombory-Moldovan was on holiday at the seaside in 1914 when news arrived that Austro-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. Immediately called-up into the Hungarian army and thrown into to the turmoil of war on the Eastern Front, he was wounded, and after his recovery served behind the lines. This wonderfully evocative memoir covers just 8 months, from July 1914 to March 1915 when he returns to duty in Budapest. Published now for the first time in any language, the memoir was only recently discovered amongst the family papers, and Zombory-Moldovan’s grandson Peter decided to publish it. The manuscript is incomplete and it’s possible that the author intended to write a longer account of his life, but even as it stands it’s a unique and compelling account, both haunting and intense, of what happened to one cultured and intelligent man caught up in the horror of the First World War. Peter Zombory-Moldovan has added a comprehensive introduction, which puts the memoir in context and gives invaluable historical and political background information and goes on to tell what happened to his grandfather during the rest of his life.
This is a real little gem and deserves a wide readership. Eloquent, clear-sighted and perceptive, Zombory-Moldovan’s memoir is an invaluable historical and personal document.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ed on 10 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This memoir captures vividly the author's life over a brief period in the early stages of Hungary's (Austria-Hungary) involvement in The Great War. It is deeply evocative, well written and entirely absorbing. The translator (the author's grandson) is to be commended for his work in bringing this to fruition. Thanks also to Charles Moore for reviewing it in the Daily Telegraph-bringing it to wide attention.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By HK Hand on 29 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fascinating and personal story of start of so-called Great War.
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