Author's page

György DRAGOMÁN
( 1973 )

» The Book of Destruction (2002)
» Nowhere (2003)
» The White King (2005)

Biography

1973 born in Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures, Romania)
1988 settles in Hungary with his family
1992 graduates from secondary school in Szombathely
1992-1998 studies Philosophy and English at ELTE, Budapest; student of the Eötvös College and the Invisible College
1998-2001 PhD studies in Modern British Literature, ELTE
2003 Hungarian participant in the First Novel Festival, Budapest

Main prizes:
2002 Soros Grant, 2002 Prize of the periodical Mozgó Világ, 2003 Bródy Prize for the best first novel, 2005 Márai Prize, 2007 Attila József Prize

The Book of Destruction
2002

The taut, almost sensual story takes place these days somewhere in East-Central Europe sometime between two wars. The duration of the story is practically identical with the time it takes to read - three days. At the beginning, the protagonist, the 26-year-old Fábián, who has been exiled for disobeying an order, arrives at remote town on the border. Here he comes under the thumb of the city's all-powerful governor, and everyone expects him to liberate them: the governor's two attractive, suicidal daughters, an elderly woman to whom he has been taken to reside, and even - to a certain extent - the burly and violent governor himself, who resembles a mythical monstrosity, and who would like to share the responsibility for his dark deeds with Fábián. Fábián's job would be to construct a refugee camp in the forest near the city, but it soon turns out that there is no need for the camp. The brutality of the incidents surrounding Fábián and the unfounded massacre of the forest animals foreshadow the coming events; an armed mob waits during the night in the woods beside dug-out pits and empty sacks. Meanwhile, Fábián's final fight with the governor proves to be in vain because historical doom, mass murder cannot be avoided because there will always be someone to give the order to fire. The story is traditional while the method of narration is experimental; it is not the thoughts and conclusions of the protagonist which we read, but - despite the third person singular narration - we see with his eyes and perceive with his skin, we travel his fateful path to the end. Like an accomplice, we can physically experience the strength of his emotions and his involuntarily committed crime. In spite of its mysteries and clutching silence, the novel is not struck dumb, but makes one look, and if we are strong enough not to turn our heads away, we will also understand that which we see.

Nowhere
2003

Presented in Pécs during the Theatre Festival of 2003 in recited form, it is a drama about the inhabitants of an isolated underground bunker (a snake-bodied girl, a two-headed man and an eternally young boy). Their terrible, but calculated lives are upset by a stranger who enters and not only begins to harp on the circumstances of their arrival, but also lures them with the bright prospects of liberation, this, of course, in vain.

The White King
2005

Like György Dragomán's first novel, his second conjures up a world of Eastern European dictatorships, yet analyses the general human condition of how it is possible for us to survive, indeed carry on hoping, in even the most dreadful circumstances, with people whose lives have been disfigured by political brutality - trying, despite their vulnerability, to conduct some kind of rational life. A more vigorous, unified and focused work than the earlier novel, The White King is narrated by an eleven-year-old boy. For political reasons, his father is taken off to a labour camp in the Danube delta, leaving the boy with his mother. At first, of course, the child is not aware, and cannot understand, what exactly has happened, even though he has seen with own eyes his father being carted off by his 'colleagues', as they call themselves. Gradually, however, a true picture begins to emerge for him, too, and he grasps of the essence of the tragic situation that lies behind the silences and lies. The story spans a single year, the book ending with the father being allowed out to attend his own father's funeral, when he is able to meet his son, though we do not find out what happens after that. The setting is Romania of the 1980s. It is of particular interest that events are seen from the viewpoint of a child, which means that the tragic developments often leave more of an impression of strangeness, oddity and even at times the outright intriguing. The boy is able to find a mischievous excitement, modest hankerings and aspirations even in the wasteland that surround him. The 18 chapters of The White King may also be read as 18 separate short stories. In one of these, the boy pilfers some tulips for his mother from a town square, because those are the flowers that his father had been in the habit of giving her (Chapter 1. Tulips). In another the children are playing war games in which they imitate the brutalities that they have seen enacted by the adults (Chapter 9. War), while in yet a third the mother makes a chestnut log, the boy's favourite dessert, for his birthday, but she then gives half of it to a child who is doing the rounds, selling coat-hangers and clothes-pegs door-to-door, because he is much poorer than they are (Chapter 13. Chestnut Log). Known by the name Djata, the boy is in the full of his all-important adolescence, but is not allowed to live the usual life of a boy of his age: he is obliged suddenly to grow up fast and take his father s place in supporting his mother. The language of the book is cleverly constructed on the vernacular and ways of thinking that children adopt, allowing the reader to get closer to the nature of a world that the boy does not fully understand and yet is able to map perfectly in the terms of his own logic and imagination. "He treats his subject in a truly exuberant, shocking work of consistently high standard." - József Tamás Reményi, Népszabadság This is an alternate history of Eastern Europe - more precisely that of Romania - in the late twentieth century, where a civil war (called a revolution by them) is followed by a renewed dictatorship. We see the story through the eyes of a young boy, who excitedly, practically in one breath, tells the story of how they took his father off to labour camp to build the Danube Canal and how he and his lonely and outcast mother somehow survived the ensuing long year. The chapters of the novel may be read as short stories on their own, each one telling a sort of story of initiation: a house search at the break of dawn, a football game played on the day of the Chernobil nuclear disaster, the shooting of a cat as a gift, the mother's desperate attempts at offering herself to the former ambassador to an African country who had recently been renounced, or the boys' cruel war games, which simply copied the deeds of their fathers. Each of these demonstrates how the boy was confronted on a daily basis with the world of sex and violence, all the while remaining innocent. Even in its darkest moments, the novel is full of vitality, humour and agitated curiosity. The novel, which makes use of autobiographical elements, yet is by no means an autobiography, was released in 2005, but excerpts were also to be found in literary journals.

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