An NYRB Classics Original
The trouble begins in Venice, the first stop on Erzsi and MihAly's honeymoon tour of Italy. Here Erzsi discovers that her new husband prefers wandering back alleys on his own to her company. The trouble picks up in Ravenna, where a hostile man zooms up on a motorcycle as the couple are sitting at an outdoor cafe. It's JAnos, someone MihAly hasn't seen for years, and he wants MihAly to come with him in search of Ervin, their childhood friend. The trouble comes to a head when MihAly misses the train he and Erzsi are due to take to Rome. Off he goes across Italy, wandering from city to city, haunted and accosted by a strange array of figures from the troubled youth that he thought he had left behind: There are the charismatic siblings, eva and TamAs, whose bizarre amateur theatricals linked sex and death forever in his mind; Ervin, a Jew turned Catholic monk who was his rival for eva's love; and again, that ruffian on the motorcycle.
Antal Szerb's dreamlike adventure, like Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, is an intoxicating, utterly individual mix of magic, madness, eros, and menace. In the words of the critic Nicholas Lezard, "No one who has read it has failed to love it."