Author's page

Biography

(his pen-names: Ernő Szív, Eric Moussambani)

1962 (17th October) born in Törökszentmiklós
1986 obtains degree at Gyula Juhász Teacher Training College, Szeged
1989 literary editor at Délmagyarország
1990-98 editor at the literary Pompeji, Szeged
1993 on the staff of the literary Élet és Irodalom

His prizes include:
1993 Déry Tibor Prize, 1994 Book of the Year, 1996 Alföld Prize, 1998 Attila József Prize, 2008 Márai Prize, 2009

The Legend of the Tear-Grifters
1999

The novel displays an astonishing richness bordering on the fantastic. The plot encompasses more than a century of the Ottoman Turkish occupation of Hungary in the 16th and 17th centuries. The events assume a magical and mythical quality. The five wandering "tear-grifters" (the Croat, the Hungarian, the Serb, the Jew and the Muslim) shed different kinds of tears (hailstones, black scarabs, acacia honey, foaming blood and broken mirrors), yet the miraculous performance always has an impact on current events. The tear-grifters are loosely related to the longed-for, feared, and fabulous events of their historical time and place. Those who are open to this amazing diversity and this whirligig of witty episodes will find themselves in a magical world of Marquezian miracles.

The Dog-Hunters of Lo-yang
2002

In a radical change from his previous works, Darvasi sets his latest volume in the strangely familiar Oriental culture of ancient imperial China. Divided into two cycles - the first a set of 17 novellas under the title "The Dog-Hunters of Lo-Yang", the second a collection of short stories, aphorisms and prose fragments under the subtitle "The Tsin Academy" - the pieces make no attempt to mimic the classical Chinese short story but instead intriguingly echo them by borrowing their motifs and figures and by evoking a similar outlook on life. It is not primarily the distant culture in itself that interests Darvasi but his own European, indeed, Central European, culture. What piques the narrator's fantasy is human knowledge, imagination, notions of truth and falsity, concealment, unpredictability, uncertainty. We come face to face again with a master fabler whom we are ready to believe now more than a thing or two about Chinese culture.

Trapiti, or the Great Stewed-Marrow War
2002

The protagonist, Trapiti, a strange goblin, suddenly makes an appearance in Pebblecastle. The opening chapters recount the town's history, when it was inhabited by the clans of the wild Bizurr-Mizurrs. Their last ruler, the "good" (but in fact evil) King Cook assumed power under suspicious circumstances, after his predecessor, the just Alfred Nudgepush III. had mysteriously vanished. The reader suspects that Trapiti is the good king's son (cut from the chronicles), and that King Cook has falsified history. In the friendly little town there are superbly drawn figures like the painter Oliver Gloomy, the mischievous mayor, 'Uncle' Uhm and Ma Holle, who cooks the best stewed-marrow in the world. Pebblecastle is threatened by the invasion of the grey-uniformed officials of the All-Highest Metropolitan's All-Highest High Councillor (a reincarnation of King Cook). But 'trapitery' (playful humanism) prevails.

Trapiti and the Awful Rabbit - Nursery Tale
2004

A first instalment of what now looks like a continuing series appeared with great success in 2002 under the title Trapiti, or the Great Stewed-Marrow War - so successful, in fact, that it was voted Children's Book of the Year in Hungary. That first volume was recommended by the publisher for those of 8 years and over. The new one is somewhat longer and would probably be more suitable for 10-year-olds and above, with a plot that is more complex though also more colourful and interesting, and with love and the criminal world obtruding into it. There is a Foreword to recap the first volume and so help new readers into the story and, no doubt, also induce them to read it for themselves. (The odd small-town figures are flashed up in a description of the wedding photo of Oliver Glum, the painter, and Viola Flower, the flower-shop girl: the town's mayor, 'Uncle' Uhum, and his wife 'Auntie' Uhum; Ma Holle, who cooks the best stewed marrow in the world; ex-wolf Béla Wolfgang; the Pepe brothers, who are street-sweepers and always say exactly the same thing; Itty-Bitty Frankie, the pint-sized chimney sweep; Wendelin and Waleria, the eternally arguing lovers; Victor Hector, the heroic fire-chief, and so on.) The new story is a touch crazier than its predecessor. A mysterious voice is scaring people, a rabbit is driving the citizens of the small town of Pebblecastle into various compulsive neuroses, with the baddies becoming capable even of kidnapping (Trapiti and Young Val are abducted in a car). There are action, thrills and tense moments galore. Chief Inspector Boleslav (Ma Holle's husband) manages to track the baddies down. Victory is largely thanks to him, and at the end it is he who sums up 'the outcome of the enquiry.' This crime thriller is interwoven with the threads of a love story. The main protagonist, Trapiti, and Young Val become ever more affectingly attached. Meanwhile we become thoroughly acquainted with more than a few amatory adventures of the other Pebblecastlers. In the end, Trapiti's small town escapes the clutches of the baddies and its characters return to their usual lives. Before that happen, though, they have to face a wealth of incidents as the baddies try every trick in the book, from special goodness tablets to the crazy concert of the Awful pop group, in their efforts to defeat the nice, kindly characters. A large number of short chapters make up the novel, with no chapter simply following on from the one before. Thus one continually finds a new incident, plot strand and character being highlighted, but always in such a way that even younger readers will not lose track of the overall scheme of the story. This makes it an ingeniously constructed, exciting, inventive and absorbing children's crime thriller. "Observing the best traditions of the genre, László Darvasi turns with just as much noteworthy respect and affection toward the fairytale as he does toward children and adults who are fond of fairytales." - litera.hu

The World's Happiest Orchestra
2006

A világ legboldogabb zenekara. Válogatott novellák. (The World s Happiest Orchestra. Selected Short Stories) Magvet , Budapest, 2005. 369 pages This book contains a selection of altogether 18 pieces from the four volumes of short stories that were published between 1993 and 1998. The works thus all date from the period when Darvasi was working on his epic-scale first novel, The Legend of the Tear Showmen, and hence can now be said to constitute Darvasi s early creative period. The volume opens and closes with the title stories from, respectively, The Rose-bushes of Weinhagen the now-classic collection that precipitated Darvasi to widespread attention and Comrade Dumumba, My Love. In between we get seven pieces from that first collection, including the much mentioned Kalaf s Aria and The Stone-Breakers of Witemberg , just one from the next collection ( Koller, the Husband ), three from The Cleophas Comic-strip Novel (e.g. The Blue-Waterfall of Fulda ), and again seven from the most recent volume, among which is The Brazilians Ball. Darvasi has an original and quite exceptional talent for telling stories. His approach ranges from the resigned and melancholic, through the ironic and playful, to a nail-biting excitement worthy of a crime thriller, but is invariably passionate and full of surprises. The style is virtuosic but never for its own sake. The worlds he portrays are often strange and alien, located in remote parts of the globe and featuring characters with odd names, but the matters that he chooses to write about always touch on the major themes of literature: love, seduction, desire and death, pain, destruction. The reader is often made privy to a particular gripping official investigation, but of course the greatest secrets that people keep are not criminalistic in nature. In the story that has been chosen to lend its title to the whole volume, the town s obese mayor, József Kern, makes it an election promise to establish an orchestra, but for years nothing comes of it until, in the end, an orchestra is assembled from the pet-shop owner s animal stock. By then all hell has broken loose, with the onset of a string of murders that have no rational explanation. One of the reasons why Hungarian critics have lionized Darvasi from very early on is their recognition of that outstanding story-telling gift. This selection displays just how diverse and rich his creative imagination is in respect of plots, localities, characters and idioms. The opportunity to read these pieces together as a selection makes it clear how deliberately Darvasi s individual art constructs and paces the stories by varying, enlarging or deforming the various elements of the plot. [This volume] recontextualizes and to that extent, perhaps, calls for a re-reading of the major novel, The Legend of the Tear Showmen, which appeared in 1999, and clearly sets out the routes leading to, and offering a significant aid to the interpretation of, an important text of indisputably canonical status yet one that, perhaps, has still not been fully assimilated. László Szilasi, Élet és Irodalom A világ legboldogabb zenekara. Válogatott novellák. (The World s Happiest Orchestra. Selected Short Stories) MAGVET , BUDAPEST, 2005. 369 PAGES Writer and literary columnist, László Darvasi was born in Törökszentmiklós in 1962. Having gained a teaching diploma at the University of Szeged, he worked as a journalist first in Szeged and later Budapest. His first publication was a volume of poetry Horger Antal Parisban (Antal Horger in Paris, 1991) followed not long after by the first of what are, to date, seven collections of short prose pieces or stories: A portugálok (The Portuguese, 1992), A veinhageni rózsabokrok (The Rose-bushes of Weinhagen, 1993), A Borgognoni-féle szomorúság (Borgognoni s Sadness, 1994), A Kleofás-képregény (The Cleophas Comic-strip Novel, 1995), Szerelmem, Dumumba elvtársn (Comrade Dumumba, My Love, 1998), Szerezni egy n t (Getting a Woman, 2000) and A lojangi kutyavadászok (The Dog-Hunters of Lo-Yang, 2002). He is also author of ahighly acclaimed novel, A könnymutatványosok legendája (The Legend of the Tear Showmen, 1999), and the children s novels Trapiti, avagy a nagytökf zelékháború (Trapiti, or the Great Stewed-Marrow War, 2002) and Trapiti és a Borzassztó nyúl (Trapiti and the Awful Rabbit, 2004). Darvasi writes a regular literary column and essays under the pseudonym Ern Szív, and he has produced plays and film scripts from a number of his works. This book contains a selection of altogether 18 pieces from the four volumes of short stories that were published between 1993 and 1998. The works thus all date from the period when Darvasi was working on his epic-scale first novel, The Legend of the Tear Showmen, and hence can now be said to constitute Darvasi s early creative period. The volume opens and closes with the title stories from, respectively, The Rose-bushes of Weinhagen the now-classic collection that precipitated Darvasi to widespread attention and Comrade Dumumba, My Love. In between we get seven pieces from that first collection, including the much mentioned Kalaf s Aria and The Stone-Breakers of Witemberg , just one from the next collection ( Koller, the Husband ), three from The Cleophas Comic-strip Novel (e.g. The Blue-Waterfall of Fulda ), and again seven from the most recent volume, among which is The Brazilians Ball. Darvasi has an original and quite exceptional talent for telling stories. His approach ranges from the resigned and melancholic, through the ironic and playful, to a nail-biting excitement worthy of a crime thriller, but is invariably passionate and full of surprises. The style is virtuosic but never for its own sake. The worlds he portrays are often strange and alien, located in remote parts of the globe and featuring characters with odd names, but the matters that he chooses to write about always touch on the major themes of literature: love, seduction, desire and death, pain, destruction. The reader is often made privy to a particular gripping official investigation, but of course the greatest secrets that people keep are not criminalistic in nature. In the story that has been chosen to lend its title to the whole volume, the town s obese mayor, József Kern, makes it an election promise to establish an orchestra, but for years nothing comes of it until, in the end, an orchestra is assembled from the pet-shop owner s animal stock. By then all hell has broken loose, with the onset of a string of murders that have no rational explanation. One of the reasons why Hungarian critics have lionized Darvasi from very early on is their recognition of that outstanding story-telling gift. This selection displays just how diverse and rich his creative imagination is in respect of plots, localities, characters and idioms. The opportunity to read these pieces together as a selection makes it clear how deliberately Darvasi s individual art constructs and paces the stories by varying, enlarging or deforming the various elements of the plot. [This volume] recontextualizes and to that extent, perhaps, calls for a re-reading of the major novel, The Legend of the Tear Showmen, which appeared in 1999, and clearly sets out the routes leading to, and offering a significant aid to the interpretation of, an important text of indisputably canonical status yet one that, perhaps, has still not been fully assimilated. László Szilasi, Élet és Irodalom A világ legboldogabb zenekara. Válogatott novellák. (The World s Happiest Orchestra. Selected Short Stories) MAGVET , BUDAPEST, 2005. 369 PAGES Writer and literary columnist, László Darvasi was born in Törökszentmiklós in 1962. Having gained a teaching diploma at the University of Szeged, he worked as a journalist first in Szeged and later Budapest. His first publication was a volume of poetry Horger Antal Parisban (Antal Horger in Paris, 1991) followed not long after by the first of what are, to date, seven collections of short prose pieces or stories: A portugálok (The Portuguese, 1992), A veinhageni rózsabokrok (The Rose-bushes of Weinhagen, 1993), A Borgognoni-féle szomorúság (Borgognoni s Sadness, 1994), A Kleofás-képregény (The Cleophas Comic-strip Novel, 1995), Szerelmem, Dumumba elvtársn (Comrade Dumumba, My Love, 1998), Szerezni egy n t (Getting a Woman, 2000) and A lojangi kutyavadászok (The Dog-Hunters of Lo-Yang, 2002). He is also author of ahighly acclaimed novel, A könnymutatványosok legendája (The Legend of the Tear Showmen, 1999), and the children s novels Trapiti, avagy a nagytökf zelékháború (Trapiti, or the Great Stewed-Marrow War, 2002) and Trapiti és a Borzassztó nyúl (Trapiti and the Awful Rabbit, 2004). Darvasi writes a regular literary column and essays under the pseudonym Ern Szív, and he has produced plays and film scripts from a number of his works. This book contains a selection of altogether 18 pieces from the four volumes of short stories that were published between 1993 and 1998. The works thus all date from the period when Darvasi was working on his epic-scale first novel, The Legend of the Tear Showmen, and hence can now be said to constitute Darvasi s early creative period. The volume opens and closes with the title stories from, respectively, The Rose-bushes of Weinhagen the now-classic collection that precipitated Darvasi to widespread attention and Comrade Dumumba, My Love. In between we get seven pieces from that first collection, including the much mentioned Kalaf s Aria and The Stone-Breakers of Witemberg , just one from the next collection ( Koller, the Husband ), three from The Cleophas Comic-strip Novel (e.g. The Blue-Waterfall of Fulda ), and again seven from the most recent volume, among which is The Brazilians Ball. Darvasi has an original and quite exceptional talent for telling stories. His approach ranges from the resigned and melancholic, through the ironic and playful, to a nail-biting excitement worthy of a crime thriller, but is invariably passionate and full of surprises. The style is virtuosic but never for its own sake. The worlds he portrays are often strange and alien, located in remote parts of the globe and featuring characters with odd names, but the matters that he chooses to write about always touch on the major themes of literature: love, seduction, desire and death, pain, destruction. The reader is often made privy to a particular gripping official investigation, but of course the greatest secrets that people keep are not criminalistic in nature. In the story that has been chosen to lend its title to the whole volume, the town s obese mayor, József Kern, makes it an election promise to establish an orchestra, but for years nothing comes of it until, in the end, an orchestra is assembled from the pet-shop owner s animal stock. By then all hell has broken loose, with the onset of a string of murders that have no rational explanation. One of the reasons why Hungarian critics have lionized Darvasi from very early on is their recognition of that outstanding story-telling gift. This selection displays just how diverse and rich his creative imagination is in respect of plots, localities, characters and idioms. The opportunity to read these pieces together as a selection makes it clear how deliberately Darvasi s individual art constructs and paces the stories by varying, enlarging or deforming the various elements of the plot. [This volume] recontextualizes and to that extent, perhaps, calls for a re-reading of the major novel, The Legend of the Tear Showmen, which appeared in 1999, and clearly sets out the routes leading to, and offering a significant aid to the interpretation of, an important text of indisputably canonical status yet one that, perhaps, has still not been fully assimilated. László Szilasi, Élet és Irodalom László Darvasi: The World’s Happiest Orchestra (A világ legboldogabb zenekara) (2005) László Darvasi’s latest book selects from the first phase of the author’s oeuvre to date, from the first four books of short stories, long out of print (A veinhageni rózsabokrok, The Rose-bushes of Veinhagen, 1993, A Borgognoni-féle szomorúság, The Borgognonian Sorrow, 1994, A Kleofás-képregény, The Kleophas Cartoon, 1995, Szerelmem, Dumumba elvtársnő, My Love, Comrade Dumumba, 1998), so its material is different from the selection published in three languages, which bares the title of a story called The World’s Saddest Orchestra. All the stories (with the exception of the Hungarian stories at the end of the book) are set in uncertain or distant places with strong atmospheric effect, and in uncertain or distant times, often revoking the world of tales and legends. Besides the plot, it is the figure of the narrator that becomes crucial, whether he reflects on the story he narrates (often in some written genre) or characterises himself unconsciously while relating a story to someone. Darvasi’s fiction touches upon the most crucial questions of existence (death, crime, bereavement, love, power), but quite frequently the stories have a challengingly open ending, leaving it to the reader to interpret them. For this very reason most would be difficult (and misleading) to sum up. To single out just the most significant ones: a story full of absurd elements, “Mr. Stammer in São Paulo” presents, in fact, the integrity of an elderly couple set against the character of a man who is capable of claiming his son dead, by “just kidding.” In “The Blue Catarect of Fulda” an old doctor, responsible even as an eye-witness, narrates a story that had taken place thirty years before, in which the unvoiced love and unfulfilled emotional needs of two young girls lead to two very different murders. The novella called “The Stern Father, or The Genuine Story of the Werner Girl” is set in turn-of-the-19th-century Hungary, portraying a young forensic doctor who sets out to solve the mystery of a murder, half unintentionally, half instinctively, risking his own skin as it is expectable in a crime story. His narrative style evokes the belle-lettrists of the era, or their amateur imitations (the young man’s uncle seems to be the short story writer Géza Csáth), yet under the burden of the story he has to tell, he suddenly starts to write more honest, precise and better sentences. The last four stories (all from Darvasi’s fourth book) are set in 1950s Hungary. The source of “El Qahira,” for instance, is a false belief shared at the time by the Soviet soldier lads commanded to Hungary that they were in fact in Egypt. This time the narrator is a wounded soldier, drafting a letter to his love in hospital, doing it in mind as he may have been blinded, and from his explanations full of love, his storytelling that is at once grotesque and moving, it transpires what minimal difficulty the communicational absurdity takes to be maintained, how little personal experiences count, how much one nation is at the mercy of another, one naive and good-wishing individual at that of the authority, and how the events of the revolution as known by the Hungarians can be interpreted from another perspective (as if the author had borrowed Swift’s vision and satire from Gulliver’s Travels). Darvasi is one of the most acknowledged figure of the middle generation, his prose is related to different traditions of the absurd, from Beckett to Malamud, and from István Örkény to Ádám Bodor.

The Mysterious World XI
2006

This is a book that, rather like the one by Esterházy, came into being at the request of the author s publisher in Germany (in this case, Suhrkamp) in anticipation of the recently decided World Championship. All the signs are, from authoritative critical feedback, that both books are considered the best of the season s crop in Germany. Darvasi has been writing short pieces and newspaper columns about football for quite some time, and these have now been collected in a single volume. Unlike Esterházy, he does not attempt to string them together to make a new story but leaves them in the form in which they originally appeared in the newspapers or earlier books. The subtitle is rather misleading as the book has little to say about the history of football and is much more about the human passion, joy, suffering, yearning and sadness that the game gives rise to. The stories centre on football s real or fictitious legends in past decades, with reports of genuine events alternating with the most audacious inventions. There is a Jamaican mother, for instance, who sleeps in turn with the footballers of the team opposing her son s team just before a decisive match. So, did that happen, then, or is it just made-up? These are sad stories about football s most joyful moments. Or vice versa. Sándor Zsigmond Papp, Élet és Irodalom

Flower Devourers
2009

It is no exaggeration to declare that Flower Devourers is one of the most exciting accomplishments and decisive developments in contemporary Hungarian prose fiction. It would be fair to say that is no great surprise, more a long-expected crowning in the writing career to date of László Darvasi (b. 1962). To extend the metaphor of flooding which is intrinsic to the new novel, it is more a slow overflowing, the early traces and antecedents of which were watched with close attention in recent years, though the passages that were allowed to appear in literary journals have in fact been radically rewritten. Flower Devourers is a novel about an era. To be more precise, the second half of the nineteenth century, when it was still the good old days, with roots, customs and traditions that stretched back several centuries into the past. One section of the novel is set in 1848-1849, in the middle of that long century, which were troubled years for Hungary, whereas the second part moves on to the end of the century and a fin-de-siècle feeling. More than that, Flower Devourers is also a novel about a city—a novel about Szeged, that basically multicultural, truly East European metropolis in the heart of southern Hungary. Darvasi lived there for decades and knows every corner, every secret and every bridge. And bridges are peculiarly important locations as far as this novel is concerned as the River Tisza flows through the middle of Szeged, and indeed not only flows through it but at times floods, spilling over its banks to wash away the old contours of the city and create a new Szeged. Over and above this, Flower Devourers is a novel about free and easy, divaricate storytelling, which finds anew its own classic scale and tempo. There are veritable branches of the narrative, strands of the tale, that set up for themselves, even postmodern games which try to get a word in edgeways from time to time. And having tried, they manage to grab the word too. There are places where Darvasi is scanning a far horizon, others where he takes a close-up view of strands that lie quite close to hand. The love story of Flower Devourers cannot be told, its mood is indescribable. One has to get lost in its pages in joyful awareness that the billowing stream of this epic will carry one off somewhere. It is both magic and realistic; fantastic and ironic; fin-de-siècle and millennium-breaking; historical and yet very modern; foggy and crystal clear; florid and plain. In a word: a masterpiece.

Itinerant Graves
2012

As indicated by its chapter or cycle titles (“Édenkert” – “Garden of Eden,” “Kína visszatér” – “China Returns,” “A Holm-féle előadás” – “The Holm-Style Lecture,” “Jézus-manökenek” – “Jesus Models,” “A szomszéd halála” – “Th e Neighbor’s Death”), László Darvasi’s latest collection of novelettes, Vándorló sírok (Itinerant Graves) cover a wide assortment of locations and time periods. Death, the volume’s central theme, appears in each novelette, always in close association with memory and and the act of writing. In “Tündérdomb” (“Fairy Hill”), for example, the mass grave, a symbol of massacre, remains unfathomable for both characters, the master and the pupil, and the only means for resolving the trauma is to tell the story of the dead. A diff erent version of this is found in the volume’s fi rst section entitled “Édenkert,” in which the story of two people – a man and a woman – dwells on themes of death and mutability laced with memories, visions and erotica. In Darvasi’s magical-realism, the unpredictable presence of the dead is independent of space and time, and their mythical agency always has a signifi cant impact upon the living, from the works of art fashioned from cursed clay to the unconventional retelling of the story of Jesus and Judas. Th e descriptions of the lands and the protagonists’ characterizations are wide ranging; thanks to the short sentences typical of Darvasi, the reader simultaneously be presented with an unusually crisp yet excessively hesitant picture of each character and event. Although the times and locations (ancient China, Biblical times, the Crusades) are quite diverse, due to their thematic and linguistic structure, the novelettes align themselves into one major narrative.

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