Author's page

Vilmos CSAPLÁR
( 1947 )

» Wild Romance (2003)
» Hitler’s Daughter (2009)

Biography

1947 born in the Újpest district of Budapest
1966-67 studies law at Eötvös Loránd JTK University, Budapest
1967-72 graduates in Hungarian from Eötvös Loránd University
1976-83 editor of Új Tükör
1988-90 editor in chief of A Lap
1989-1995 editor of the Attila József Circle’s journal, the '84-es kijárat
1993-94 spokesman for the Democratic Charta
2003-to present president of the Szépírók Társasága (Belletrist Society)

His major prizes include:
1975 Zsigmond Móricz Scholarship, 1975-76 International Writing Program, USA, 1988-89 Hungarian Academy-Soros Foundation Scholarship, 1991 IRAT Quality Prize, 1994 Soros Foundation Scholarship, 1994 Special Prize at MTI-PRESS' Feuilleton Writing Contest, 1998 Attila József Prize, 2000-01 Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia Scholarship, 2003 Milán Füst Award, 2005 The Hungarian Republic's Laurel Wreath, 2006 Béla Balázs Prize


Wild Romance
2003

Built upon erotic and political intrigue, Vilmos Csaplár’s novel is set in Pozsony (today Bratislava, Slovakia) and a hunting manor nearby, during the Reform Era of the early 19th century. It is no surprise that in this pre-revolutionary time several characters are plotting, but to what end exactly? Is it the radical MPs or the secret agents from Vienna, the adversary or the jealous lover, who are most determined to blow up one wing of the manor and end the life of Tarnai, the keeper of the crown? To what extent can the traitors grasp hold of the truth, and to what extent are they betraying themselves? These are questions that unfold slowly, as in any good story of espionage. On one side of this social satire are the impotent and discordant Hungarian reformers, including the impractical inventor, Kálmán Idrányi (whose name hardly conceals an allusion to János Irinyi, the inventor of the safety match); on the other side, the unscrupulous and incompetent Austrian secret police. There happen as well to be two eyewitnesses from England, who, despite their linguistic and cultural handicap, possess the clear vision of the outsider. Alongside the lively scene-to-scene narrative, their reflections, letters and documents tell this story. Adam Whitewell, “the engineer of the Vienna-Trieste Railway Construction company”, who is in love with Mrs Tarnai, keeps drafting letters to his uncle Jack, sometimes in mind, sometimes in reality, yet always taking it for granted that his lines will be read by the Emperor’s agents. But perhaps he is a spy himself, intending his letters for the English foreign minister. His compatriot, Miss Julie Pardoe, is planning to write a guidebook from her experiences but, quite suspiciously, happens to be at the exact spot when and where the main event takes place. Their presence offers an opportunity for the author to draw a satirical tableau with several familiar phenomena, from “Hungarian bravado”, through persecution mania and a split society to political agents’ reports. All sorts of scenes and moods are involved, from irony and slapstick to surreal dream-scenes. In one scene, for instance, a wild boar blames the Hungarian historical tradition that has made his ancestor responsible for the death of commander Miklós Zrínyi; he allows for an assassination, maybe, and no one dares mention the boar-ancestor, who was likewise murdered. “As far as I can see, Csaplár...sets out with the very exciting and appealing purpose of making all the pages and all the elements of his novel evoke the old fashioned and illusory reader’s experience of the one-time romantic historical novel that offered historical, moral and psychological ‘identification’ and at the same time he cruelly leaves his reader disillusioned, straight away, in each moment and with each gesture; he or she will have nothing and no-one to identify with (and this, of course, immediately provokes the retrospective inquiry, namely, what exactly was meant by the demand for identification?); the story Csaplár narrates has no course or continuity that anyone at any minute could adapt oneself to, since the narrator (or the narration itself?) denies him or her the very illusion of connections, order or interpretability. In this sense the novel, describing and operating all these secrets, becomes the embodiment of secret itself.” - István Margócsy

Hitler’s Daughter
2009

Hitler’s Daughter Vilmos Csaplár (b. 1947) has opted for a provocative title for his latest novel—the sort of title that has one do a double-take. Unrolling a plot with several strands that becomes ever more intricate, the book takes advantage of the freedom and spontaneity of fiction to make the factual basis and reality of the history of the twentieth century even more radical. That is a dangerous, risky game—positively serious. Csaplár is well aware of that. His omniscient narrator is low-key and cool, yet determined, otherwise how are we supposed to believe that a young political radical at the very start of his career and who paints, not corny still lifes, but dreadful historical visions, would father a child by Fanny Kucor, a kitchen maid in a Hungarian eating-house in Munich, and Jewish to boot. The narrator unexpectedly pops up at the most diverse places in Europe and Hungary’s history. One can sense in the finest of the episodes Csaplár’s experience with writing film scripts: he has a remarkable talent for putting things over in visual terms, providing copious descriptions, giving his characters vivid vernacular, and making quick, well-judged changes of pace. The historical kaleidoscope does not omit Hungary’s winter of 1944, portraying the siege of Budapest and the Calvary that most of its inhabitants underwent from a worm’s eye view. It goes into the dilemma faced by the capital’s Jews in quite some detail. What is the best thing to do when it is already clear what they can expect, and they try to prepare themselves for it? Is it worth negotiating with the Nazis, or even possible? Can a secret deal be struck to buy human lives for gold? The narrator’s calm and collected approach, with its occasional darts of acerbic irony, is particularly important in these parts. So too when it comes to scenes from Hungary’s 1956 revolution. The sources that the author carefully incorporates into the novel are likewise highly relevant, precisely to lend truth to the fiction. Hitler’s Daughter is a family saga that is made up of shards, splinters of fate, in order to be able to give a sense of the carnivalesque colours of the terrible history of the last century.

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