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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No spoilers in this review!
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...
Published on 15 Jun 2009 by SP Crowley

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost in translation
A professor of etymology finds himself in an unknown city of enormous dimensions where the language cannot be interpreted and there seems to be no awareness of other cultures. Unable to make an impression on the populace beyond a fleeting affair with a blonde lift attendant his straits become ever more desperate.
That's it really - and it's a bit disappointing; an...
Published on 20 Nov 2010 by Sporus


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No spoilers in this review!, 15 Jun 2009
By 
SP Crowley "stevec" (North London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Metropole (Paperback)
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern nightmare, 20 Aug 2008
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Melmoth (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Metropole (Paperback)
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.

Metropole is a brilliant study of the everyday alienation that so often goes with life in a modern city, a place that can be brusque and harsh and in which one is sometimes forced to question whether any of us truly speak the same language. At the same time it is a prescient (this was written in 1970) study of a world in which we are divided into either individuals or mobs, with no such thing as society to stand between the two states. Nonetheless it ends on a note of hope - something we all must do if we want to press on through our life today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost in translation, 20 Nov 2010
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Sporus (Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Metropole (Paperback)
A professor of etymology finds himself in an unknown city of enormous dimensions where the language cannot be interpreted and there seems to be no awareness of other cultures. Unable to make an impression on the populace beyond a fleeting affair with a blonde lift attendant his straits become ever more desperate.
That's it really - and it's a bit disappointing; an over-fed short story. The linguistic analysis is low-grade and best when played for laughs. The prose plods (variations of the sentence "Strange that he had never thought of this before, but..." crop up every fifteen pages) and overall the level of invention is low for a premise that holds such promise of fantasy.
No use complaining that the logic doesn't hold up (a country in Northern Europe that has bananas but doesn't have international references in the newspapers or in the shops? A man who spends most of his professional life in the library but never once thinks to go to one and seek out the dictionary section?); that's not the point. There are no solutions to the prof's dilemma. This is a nightmare.
Or rather, it's a Pilgrim's Progress about what a man goes through in order to have an affair (and a plea in absentia for the overlooked importance of domesticity). And that, at least, is refreshing in a genre that generally wants to play with big ideas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trapped., 29 Jan 2010
This review is from: Metropole (Paperback)
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
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Metropole (Kindle Edition)
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.

With Budai only making one friend in this book it does highlight the isolation and loneliness that people can feel suddenly moving to a big city, and the description of how people live in slums is reminiscent of how we can see cities growing still in some parts of the world.

Although a good read and thoughtful it is the holes in the story that stand out and detract from this thus making it very good, but not great.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars terrifying and draining, 24 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Metropole (Kindle Edition)
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. The second half of the book I found myself speed reading as I was desperate to get out of the book and away from the city which was causing him so much difficulty. It is not a comfortable read and all the better for it but if I'm honest I just wanted it to end! Maybe that is what the author intended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Lost .....in Metropole, 7 Nov 2012
This review is from: Metropole (Paperback)
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.

Nightmarish, realistic, claustrophobic, enthralling.

Join the hero, you will feel like you literally have.

Stunning SF.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For everyone to read, for some to be impressed, 16 July 2011
This review is from: Metropole (Paperback)
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.

I appreciate what Karinthy is trying to achieve and I'm certain this book could be life-changing for some people. For me, however, it seemed recycled and lacked consistency in quality. In the first third I couldn't escape the feeling that crudely moulded ideas were getting chiseled into my mind ("Yes, I get your point. I don't need this 14th example of the same stage of Budai's life."). Then it picks up, but the ending is predictable. It reminds me of a chick flick ending.

The question of language is tackled well. It can open your eyes to a whole range of questions of cognition and perception: activating schemata to aid interpretation of one's surroundings, language acquisition, etc. I wonder how much a non-linguistally-trained reader would take home from this book. For a linguist, it's neither here, nor there: too analytical for just-a-good-novel, but lacking the depth of insight that would leave a linguistically-aware person thinking.

Overall, a good read. For some people. Worth reading, if only to form your own opinion.
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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
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A Common Reader "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Metropole (Paperback)
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.

Budai tries to master the language, but it seems to be as difficult as decoding an ancient Egyptian text. He steals a telephone directory, buys a book and collects leaflets in order to try to make sense of the language but this seems like one of those impossible tasks you are set in a dream, with the details hazy and fluid, and the solution just out of reach. He manages to form a relationship with a young woman who operates the hotel lift. She teaches him the number one to ten, but every day, the words seem to have changed, and Budai wonders whether there are different words for each number like the English zero, nought, "oh", null. Even her name seems to change slightly each day so he can never quite capture it in his notebook.

I found the story quite gripping and enjoyed the nightmarish aspects to it. Anyone who travels to a foreign city knows something of the difficulty of making oneself known, and it is easy to relish the troubles that befall Budai when this is taken to excess.

Budai has certainly captured the atmosphere of the city very well. It is a city gone wrong, where a population explosion has reduced everyone to just one rung above survival. The inhabitants are short-tempered, impatient, intolerant of strangers and prone to low-level cruelty. We see these tendencies in all cities but no city we know has descended to the point where every street is packed with people, and there are no quieter times of day. Budais attempts to find the outer boundaries of the city fail: even when he takes a Metro to the outermost station he only sees vistas of further urban strawl stretching to the horizon. A frightening vision, the stuff of nightmares and a good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Confusion reigns in an uber-foreign culture, 21 July 2013
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This review is from: Metropole (Kindle Edition)
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. But take it further: you are a trained linguist who is used to making understandable patterns from foreign scripts and spoken languages, and STILL you cannot fathom out what you see, what you hear, where you are. You are dumbfounded as to why you cannot communicate the simplest of requests. You may as well be surrounded by ants - ants that look, act and sound remarkably like humans.
This excellent book is a wonderful and easy read. Get it now!
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Metropole
Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy (Paperback - 15 May 2008)
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