Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Journey by Moonlight
by Antal Szerb, introduction by Julie Orringer, a new translation from the Hungarian by Len Rix
An NYRB Classics Original
The trouble begins in Venice, the first stop on Erzsi and Mihály’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 café. It’s János, someone Mihály hasn’t seen for years, and he wants Mihály to come with him in search of Ervin, their childhood friend. The trouble comes to a head when Mihály 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, Éva and Tamás, whose bizarre amateur theatricals linked sex and death forever in his mind; Ervin, a Jew turned Catholic monk who was his rival for Éva’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.”
Journey by Moonlight was the NYRB Classics Book Club selection for October 2014.by Antal Szerb, introduction by Julie Orringer, translated by Len Rix
Journey by Moonlight is a beautiful book, the sort of book that stays imprinted on some soft part of you for a long time. Its intelligence is so humane—so forgiving to the last...And from the wreckage of the Holocaust, from such horrible annihilation, from such a violent silencing of so many voices, this extraordinary novel emerges as another improbable survival.
—Becca Rothfeld, The New Republic
A devastatingly intelligent novel of love, society and metaphysics in a mid-1930s Europe....As a study of erotic caprice, Journey by Moonlight is brilliant, but it is so much more than just a romp.
—Toby Lichtig, The Times Literary Supplement
A writer of immense subtlety and generosity....Can literary mastery be this quiet-seeming, this hilarious, this kind? Antal Szerb is one of the great European writers.
Just divine...I can't remember the last time I did this: finished a novel, and then turned straight back to page 1 to start it over again. That is, until I read Journey by Moonlight...It's a comedy, but a serious and slyly clever one, the kind of book that makes you imagine the author has had private access to your own soul...Len Rix [has] managed to translate Szerb's book into beautifully fluent English, and what we have is a work of comedy and depth, the comedy all the more striking in that the chief subjects of the book are abnegation and suicide...No one who has read it has failed to love it.
—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
A novel to love as well as admire, always playful and ironical, full of brilliant descriptions, bon mots and absurd situations...it's a book utterly in love with life.
—Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Guardian, Books of the Year
This radiantly funny and intelligent novel...shows its author to be one of the masters of twentieth-century fiction. Len Rix's loving translation of a book that might have remained lost to us deserves special praise.
—Paul Bailey, The Times Literary Supplement, International Books of the Year
Szerb's first novel exulted in the absurdity of life while his last despaired over it. His most well-known work, Journey by Moonlight, written in 1937, maintained a powerful tension between both...May Szerb's re-entrance into our literary pantheon be definitive.
Mihaly's relationship with Tamas is so myopic and worshipful as to bring back memories of Death in Venice, but I respect Szerb's book more...the book is one of the few written before the deluge that acknowledges a bourgeois unreality with an unblinkered eye.
One of the friends I mentioned put a small book in my hand and said: 'Len, you must read this. Every educated Hungarian knows and loves this book.' It was Antal Szerb's Utas es holdvilag. Within a few pages I knew it was a great European novel, and I determined not just to translate it but to try and give it a translation of the literary quality it deserves.
A veritable avalanche of brilliant perceptions...It's all so earnest, so up-to-date, so symbolic, so sophisticated, so marvelously pleased with itself and yet so naive and unhappy you don't know whether to consume the book at a sitting or throw it away...Journey by Moonlight is a burning book, a major book.
A stealthy masterpiece...both comic and beautiful.
Wonderfully wry...We owe thanks to Len Rix, Szerb's accomplished translator, for his part in raising from the dead a writer of such cool irony and historical sympathy.
[A] great masterpiece of high modernism...a bildungsroman of the twentieth century itself. In translator Len Rix's gifted hands, it becomes a powerful and poignant testament to Antal Szerb's learning and speaks to his many accomplishments...At its heart, Szerb's narrative is a remarkable, painstaking study of a man's fascination with his own mortality.
—Carla Baricz, Words Without Borders