Niki: The Story of a Dog

Tibor Déry

translated from the Hungarian by Edward Hyams
New York Review Books 2009 [1956]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2011
In the spring of 1948 the bitch Niki adopts the Ancsas and The Story of a Dog describes her subsequent life with them. This is set against the backdrop of post-war Hungarian history, with Mr Ancsa moved from his job as a mining engineer to less and less important jobs, unrelated to his training, and then arrested without notice and imprisoned for years. Mrs Ancsa and Niki survive with the help of a few loyal friends.

It is tempting to look for symbolic connections, comparing, say, the relationship of Niki and the Ancsas with that of the Ancsas and the state, but this goes nowhere. There is no allegory or direct political message here and Niki really is the story of a dog and a family, with the background setting remaining a setting.

Nor is Niki anthropomorphised: the narrator speculates about her understanding and cognition, but realistically. It is her emotional life and her embedding in the relationships of those around her and their social lives which make her a genuine character.

An introduction by George Szirtes provides some background for those unfamiliar with the history. Published in 1956, Niki was surprisingly left unbanned after the Soviet crackdown, even though Tibor Déry spent three years in prison.

July 2011

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%T Niki: The Story of a Dog
%A Déry, Tibor
%M Hungarian
%F Hyams, Edward
%I New York Review Books
%D 2009 [1956]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781590173183
%P 123pp