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Metropole Paperback – 15 May 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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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: 12.7 x 2 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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Format: 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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
'Metropole' appeared in Hungarian in 1970, but had to wait forty years to be translated into English. By repute, it is Ferenc Karinthy's best novel. The most common comparison is with Kafka, particularly the Kafka of 'The Trial' and 'The Castle'. As with most such comparisons, it is neither particularly helpful nor as much of a compliment to the author as is intended. Fortunately, Karinthy is his own man. Whether he possesses the uncanny power of Kafka is another matter.

The book might be placed as a late example of European existentialist fiction, with surreal flourishes. The central character, Budai, is a peripatetic academic who, by virtue of a series of events that may or may not be purely coincidental, finds himself deplaning in a mysterious country that is not his intended destination, and whose language he cannot understand. This is all the more alarming since Budai is a linguistician by profession. Taken to a hotel in the city nearby, he sets out to correct the mistake that has marooned him. The bulk of the book concerns his ever more desperate attempts to liberate himself, and the corrosive effects of his circumstances on his character and sense of identity.

Karinthy possessed a PhD in linguistics, and 'Metropole' is at some level a linguistician's perverse fantasy: the panic fear of mutual unintelligibility that dates back at least to the myth of the tower of Babel. The language of the strange and unnamed country is impossible to parse and ever-shifting. Budai finds himself in a sort of secular hell in which his best intentions are incommunicable and his professional skills useless. Karinthy observes how much of what we take to be our identity is given to us by others, and tied up in our ability to communicate.
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