The Babel Guide to Hungarian Literature

Ray Keenoy, Vivienne Menkes-Ivry + Zsuzsanna Varga

Boulevard 2001
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004
Most of the Babel Guide to Hungarian Literature — some 100 pages — is taken up by reviews of some fifty novels and anthologies. This is followed by two longer pieces, on poetry and drama available in English, and a twenty page "database" of Hungarian literature in translation.

Works from the nineteenth century through to the present are covered, with some authors featuring several times. The reviews are excellently done, informative rather than flashy and accessible to those unfamiliar with Hungarian literature. They provide background on authors and historical settings, touch on content, and include brief quotes to give an idea of the style.

A drawback is that these reviews are ordered alphabetically by author, with no table of contents or any other hint as to where to start reading: I ended up going through them in pretty much random order. One option would have been an overview of Hungarian fiction along the lines of those for drama and poetry, with cross-references to the individual reviews; a timeline or chronology would also have been helpful.

The "database" is just that — an indigestible three-column printout of structured data, without even any whitespace between records! This really should have been put on the web somewhere as a spreadsheet, not jammed into print.

These are minor failings, however. For the English-speaking reader interested in Hungarian literature, this Babel Guide is an indispensable resource. It has led me to three or four authors I might otherwise never have found and I expect to return to it again.

November 2004

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%T The Babel Guide to Hungarian Literature
%A Keenoy, Ray
%A Menkes-Ivry, Vivienne
%A Varga, Zsuzsanna
%I Boulevard
%D 2001
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1899460853
%P 137pp