Top positive review
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No spoilers in this review!
on 15 June 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.