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If Only by Stephen Vizinczey


If Only by Stephen Vizinczey

More people commit suicide during their holidays than at any other time. It's strange but it makes sense. The rest of the year they are too busy, too harassed, too tired to think seriously about anything. Only when they get away from home and work do they have the leisure to reflect at length on their misery and abandon themselves to despair. It's only then that they have the energy to rouse themselves without the aid of habit and do something out of the ordinary. If Only is the story of Jim Taylor, a gifted young man who dreams of becoming a great musician, but tired of poverty and homelessness, gives up his vocation. 'I want to enjoy life before I'm too old for it,' he says when he finds a well-paid job working with the first computers. He meets Lesley at a concert and they have a disastrous affair, but each felt guilty, each felt the other was innocent - they were in love and they get married. Lesley is the sun of Jim's life, the light of this otherwise dark story. 'You turn your head and a decade is gone. Jim is the Senior Vice-President of the UK's biggest software company.A decent but weak character, ('he had a mortgage - he wasn't a free man') he became the best of the worst kind of villains. If only he had stuck to music! If only he had known, if only he had understood.


This is the modern world as Swift or Voltaire might have depicted it, a world just as wicked and corrupt, of course, as it has always been-and will continue to be till genetic engineering breeds our lowlifes and scumbags out of existence. Eccentric, mordantly ironic and unashamedly (not to say a little tastelessly) bawdy, If Only presents the reader with a gallery of lowlifes and scumbags and seethes throughout with a bitter hatred of human stupidity, which, as Flaubert said, is infinite. Vizinczey has caught the beastliness of this perennially wicked and corrupt world and rendered that beastliness with style and eloquence. - Eric Bond Hutton; This is a fantastic novel. It is in many ways the culmination of the writing powers of Stephen Vizinczey; combining in its wonderful story the intimacy of In Praise of Older Women and the universality of An Innocent Millionaire. The protagonist, Jim Taylor, take us on a journey that crosses not only oceans but boundaries of imagination and explores the depths of human nature as well as its inherent frailty. We may all make different wishes but in essence we all want the same; to live forever and to be happy. With this wonderful novel Vizinczey has surely achieved both of those aims! - Conor Bowman; I am totally overwhelmed by [If IOnly], so much so, that after finishing it (at 4 AM) I started all over again from the beginning. It is like some favourite classical music, the more you hear it, the better it gets. You just can't put it down it takes you completely, flowing smoothly - I cannot describe it better. I just had to express my being awed by the style, the story the characters-everything is so perfectly written - Ibi Gabori

About the Author

Born in Hungary, son of a headmaster and church organist, Stephen Vizinczey was two years old when his father was assassinated by the Nazis; two decades later his uncle was murdered by the Communists. During his student years he was a poet and playwright and three of his plays were banned by the regime. One won the Attila Jozsef prize, but the police raided the theatre during the dress rehearsal and seized all copies of the play. Vizinczey fought in the defeated Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and fled to the West, speaking about fifty words of English. Since then, like Conrad and Nabokov, he has risen to the ranks of those foreigners who handle English in a way to make a native Anglophone pale with jealousy (Leslie Hanscom, New York Newsday), and can teach the English how to write English (Anthony Burgess). He learned the language by writing scripts for the National Film Board of Canada, founded and edited the literary-political magazine Exchange. He joined CBC/Radio Canada as a writer and producer in Toronto. In 1965 he quit his job, borrowed money to publish his first novel, In Praise of Older Women (planning to commit suicide if it failed) and distributed it by car and through the post. It became the first and only self-published novel to top the bestseller lists in the history of Canadian literature. Its subsequent publication and success in Britain the following year drew worldwide attention to the novel and it became an acclaimed international bestseller. In his second book, The Rules of Chaos, inspired by Tolstoy's theory of history and his own experiences of wars and revolution, Vizinczey argued that the chaotic interaction of events renders the conventional belief in power a delusion: Power is a stick or a mirage of a stick, but it is impossible to know beforehand which it is... and the cruelties of power are the rage of impotence. He predicted in a 1968 article in Nigel Lawson's Spectator that America was bound to be defeated in Vietnam, in spite of the massive superiority of American power against an immeasurably smaller and weaker country. Weapons are means of destruction, not means of control, he wrote. Power weakens as it grows. The author moved to London in 1967 and was a lead reviewer in successive decades in The Times and The Sunday Telegraph until the mid 1980s. These reviews, mostly about classic authors, have been translated and reprinted in major newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic and were finally published in book form in 1985 as Truth and Lies in Literature. It continues to be published and republished in major languages. Always out of step with prevailing notions of both popular and high art, Vizinczey's second novel, An Innocent Millionaire, was rejected by scores of publishers before it was eventually published in 1983 by Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson in London and Harold Evans in New York. Welcomed by Graham Greene and Anthony Burgess, An Innocent Millionaire was hailed throughout the world by writers and critics, who compared it to nineteenth century classics, notably Stendhal and Balzac. Vizinczey is one of the great contemporary writers who makes the crucial themes of our times his own and transforms them into the stuff of fiction with humour and passion. (Sergio Vila-Sanjuan, La Vanguardia.) His books have so far sold seven million copies around the world. Fifty years after publishing is his first novel, Vizinczey decided to return to self-publishing, producing a collected edition of his works in English, starting with his long-awaited third novel If Only. If you were compiling an anthology of foreign born writers who make the English writer canon, he would belong, and he is one of the very few who would . (Norman Stone, The Spectator.) More information can be found on Vizinczey's website:

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Book Info

Publication date

31st March 2016


Stephen Vizinczey

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The Happy Few Ltd


440 pages


Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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