PÃ©ter EsterhÃ¡zy, a member of one of Europeâ€™s most prominent aristocratic families, was born in Budapest in 1950. His books, published mostly in Europe, are considered to be significant contributions to postwar literature.
Winner of the 2004 German Publishers and Booksellers Association Peace Prize In The Glance of Countess Hahn-Hahn (down the Danube), P ter Esterh zy tells the story of a professional traveler, commissioned--like Marco Polo by Kublai Khan--to undertake a voyage of discovery and prepare a travelogue. Communicating the details of his journey through terse and surreal telegrams, the Traveller weaves a rich tapestry of narratives, evoking the ethereal past and the precarious present of a disappearing world.
An elegant homage to the great Czech storyteller Bohumil Hrabal, The Book of Hrabal is also a glowing paean to blues music, saxophones, and the mixed blessings of domestic life. It is also a farewell to the years of communism in Eastern Europe. And it is a treatise on the ongoing relationship between God and humankind as reflected in the lives of a Hungarian writer and his wife. The novel centers on Anna, the blues-singing housewife and mother of three (soon to be four) who suffers through her husband's often impossible writing experiments. She addresses her reminiscences and reflections to Hrabal, his current subject. Her thoughts swing from domestic matters to the injustices suffered by her family during the Stalinist 1950s, the police harassment in subsequent years, and the many strains on her marriage. Her husband, in turn, is so hopelessly entangled in his project celebrating Hrabal that he is incapable of actually writing it. The story develops into a literary love triangle, as Hrabal becomes Anna's confidant and an invisible participant in the marriage. Meanwhile two angels shadow the house, disguised as secret policemen and speaking with God via walkie-talkie in a surprising blend of celestial and urban slang. Their mission: to prevent Anna from aborting her fourth child. When this outcome is in doubt, God himself (aka Bruno) enters the scene; he chats with Hrabal, takes saxophone lessons from an irreverent Charlie Parker, and plays the sax for Anna to try to dissuade her from ending the pregnancy. Unfortunately the Lord is tone deaf, and his love for jazz and blues is matched only by his utter lack of musical talent. A brilliant stylist, Esterhazy creates a complex and playfulnovel through deft manipulation of language, tone, and perspective.
An extraordinary montage of sex and politics, P ter Esterh zy's innovative novel can be seen to prefigure the liberation of Eastern Europe. Written under what the author calls small, Hungarian, pornographic circumstances, A Little Hungarian Pornography exists in a context of official falsehood and misinformation, of lies of the body, the soul, and the state, perpetuated in the duality of language. In a state where the lack of democracy was called socialist democracy, economic chaos a socialist economy, and revolution an anti-revolution, the notion of speech and obscenity becomes equally distorted and skewed. Under these circumstances, the author considers the shackles inherent in the vocabulary of oppression and contrasts this with the freedom of the body in sex. A kaleidoscopic digression on perversion and politics, A Little Hungarian Pornography is both satire and critique, trifle and tract, and further support for Esterh zy's status as one of the best writers in Europe today.