Author's page

Gergely PÉTERFY
( 1966 )

» A B Side (1998)
» The Sadness of the Fire-Chief (2000)
» Mine Pond (2004)
» Michaelbook (2005)
» Death in Buda (2008)

Biography

1966 born in Budapest
1993 garduates in Hungarian Literature and Classical Philology from Budapest University
receives a PhD at the University of Miskolc
1996 senior lecturer at the University of Miskolc; also works as a radio editor

Awards
1995 Zsigmond Móricz Grant
1996 Soros Grant
1997, 1998, 1999 NKA Grant
1999-2000 Új Színház s Playwrights Grant
2002 Eötvös Grant
2003 Attila József Award
2004 Sándor Márai Award
2004 Stiftung Preussische Seehandlung Grant (Berlin)
2004 First Prize at the competition Our Dear Mothertongue

A B Side
1998

A B oldal (A B Side), 1998 The novel, consisting of eight parts (Getting up, Coffee, Clothes, Commute, Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Evening, Night), presents a characteristic day from the life of a young university student; it shows his romantic friendships, his loves, his memories and his unusual family of artists: This is what we loved most: getting underway, hurrying together in the gasoline smells of the foggy winter evening towards the closest pub, to lay the foundations of the night. We longed with the same intensity for the same high spirits, because we worked desperately all through the day with the same unproductive energy; the same iridescent emptiness surrounded us both: classical philology; we both longed for something to happen, anything, but let it be elemental; and we both knew that the wine will create at least the illusion of such elementariness. Many contemporary critics say that the figures of the narrator s two friends, Sculptor and Kőnig, can be identified as real people (one of them is said to be Balázs Simon, the talented poet and prose writer who died prematurely, just a few years ago). The novel may thus be read as a kind of roman á clef, especially when describing the family of the narrator (Péterfy is the great-grandson of the poet Lajos Áprily and the grandson of Zoltán Jékely; his grandmother and sister are both actresses and there are other younger writers in the family, not to mention his famous father, the sculptor and painter László Péterfy, whose country house he describes in detail). It is also of special importance that the family is of Transylvanian origin, which often means increased traditionalism combined with a love of independence. Only one thing is missing from the novel: politics, which surely defined the age. According to an interview, this is due to the fact that his parents were always reluctant to let Communist politics influence their everyday life. The best parts of the novel are the descriptions of the roaming of the narrator and his friends, especially the moments when they start to destroy the junk put out on the streets to be cleared by the rubbish-wagons they begin to annihilate the objects as if they were trying to destroy a whole suffocating political era.

The Sadness of the Fire-Chief
2000

A tűzoltóparancsnok szomorúsága (The Sadness of the Fire-Chief), 2000 Péter Hajnóczy writes in one of his short stories, Alcohol : Endless stories, in which the willingness to remember the smallest details is revolving around and around: as if the world could be not explained, but rather changed by the right answers....They speak about the order in which a few people were sitting at a table somewhere, sometime. They must make everything clear, that s why they drink! Péterfy s The Sadness of the Fire-Chief, long and spiralling, evokes the same feeling of intoxication, resembling a mirror in a pub broken by a fist in a flash of anger. Someone is telling a story about someone telling a story about someone this is the structure of the fragmented narratives that follow each other in the novel; there are manuscripts being written and disappearing, artists speaking about life and art. The novel is full of stories and descriptions, loves, women and different inquiries. A few strange details: an Albanian member of the mafia, a crazy composer, angry postmodern rap for seeking truth, all combined with perfect minimalist short stories details appearing to lead nowhere, but asking to be read and re-read for the sheer fun of it, because the thing that propels the novel is in fact not alcohol, but narration itself, the passionate telling of stories as the only possible human relation. No wonder the pub where the whole novel takes place is called Babylon.

Mine Pond
2004

Bányató (Mine Pond), 2004 In the twelve chapters of the novel the watchman of the quarry pond is talking to the narrator about swimmers and drowned men, life and death; yet the two are perhaps the same because here reality is suspended: the mine pond is a useless, illogical and meaningless place, a lake where there should be none, a non-existent lake; it is evident, therefore, that everything which is considered useless has been thrown into this non-entity, this hole which annihilates everything. This is a closed wasteland, a place of desolation and still, it is the victory of a writer s mind over matter. The fourth volume, Quarry Pond, is an economical, strictly-fashioned organic text, which can be both read as a novelette or a series of short stories. The chosen scene suggests the impulses which determine the manner of construction. The mine pond of the title and its shore is the place where as in a closed and circular world things start to happen. And this is the only place, according to fiction, where they could ever happen. -Csaba Károlyi

Michaelbook
2005

Misikönyv (Michaelbook), 2005 A young boy opens his eyes and discovers that the world has disappeared and that it is his task to re-create it. Strange adventures begin with peculiar half-mythical characters, in the world of tales where Evil can always be conquered, if not by power, then by laughter. Péterfy, father of three, wrote this book for his son Misi (Michael). In an interview he explained the purpose of the novel: My most evident and most sure experience about the soul and the nature of the world is the space which I describe in my book: the inner room with the nine exits. You can, of course, find examples of this topic in the whole of world literature, from the Gnostics to Borges, but of course it s easy to see evident things Michaelbook intends to ensure its readers that their feelings are true: imagination is the strongest reality, and chance and incidental things are its important components because it is exactly the imperfect and the accidental that tear into its structure to let us closer to it. These gaps and crevices come into being on the perfect surface of the forms and norms which are impelled by society.

Death in Buda
2008

The novel unfolds on several planes, the first and most visible of which is the historical one. Christian forces repulse the Ottoman army's attack on Vienna in the mid-1680s and oust the Turks from the Castle of Buda in 1686. It is no exaggeration to say that the reader feels present at the scene. Péterfy has researched the minutiae of military history and strategy, the narrators (of whom there are several) find or lose their way with the help of period maps, and the course of each battle is reconstructed from the smallest parts (not infrequently, body parts). Dozens of primary sources have been integrated into the text. At the same time, Péterfy also creates: monsters part human and part beast and fictional characters brought to life (and mostly to death) by blending several historical figures. This is a slightly less visible, yet all the more intensely felt dimension of the novel, which imparts the temporal experience of history, the eternity of chaos, and the infinity of the moment. It makes you feel how the historical scale of events crashes into a barricade or over one's head, as the case may be. It makes you sense the contingent combination of a diverging series of events in what is retrospectively constructed as history. History is written not so much by the victors as by the survivors -- by the survivors about the dead. It is here in the realm of death that we find the most abstract plane of the novel. In this world, where "the woman in love and the angel of death" fight for a man, the plane of death appears curiously parallel to that of life rather than blocking it at right angles. It follows from life or perhaps it is present all along. Death is self-evident in this novel, and what proves this is life itself. Péterfy's work is an extraordinary rendition of the recently popular genre of historical novel. The fabric of its history is not text but tissue. Flesh. This matter, however, is transfigured by a genuine death poetry and balladistic verve into an allegory of the decaying body and the soaring soul.

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