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A New York Times Notable Book for 2011 In 1989, the year the Wall came down, a university student in Berlin on his morning run finds a corpse on a park bench and alerts the authorities. This scene opens a novel of extraordinary scope and depth, a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans—Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Gypsies—across the treacherous years of the mid-twentieth century.
Three unusual men are at the heart of Parallel Stories: Hans von Wolkenstein, whose German mother is linked to secrets of fascist-Nazi collaboration during the 1940s; Ágost Lippay Lehr, whose influential father has served Hungary’s different political regimes for decades; and András Rott, who has his own dark record of mysterious activities abroad. The web of extended and interconnected dramas reaches from 1989 back to the spring of 1939, when Europe trembled on the edge of war, and extends to the bestial times of 1944–45, when Budapest was besieged, the Final Solution devastated Hungary’s Jews, and the war came to an end, and on to the cataclysmic Hungarian Revolution of October 1956. We follow these men from Berlin and Moscow to Switzerland and Holland, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, and of course, from village to city in Hungary. The social and political circumstances of their lives may vary greatly, their sexual and spiritual longings may seem to each of them entirely unique, yet Péter Nádas’s magnificent tapestry unveils uncanny reverberating parallels that link them across time and space.This is Péter Nádas’s masterpiece—eighteen years in the writing, a sensation in Hungary even before it was published, and almost four years in the translating. Parallel Stories is the first foreign translation of this daring, demanding, and momentous novel, and it confirms for an even larger audience what Hungary already knows: that it is the author’s greatest work.
Péter Nádas was born in Budapest in 1942. Among his works translated into English are the novels A Book of Memories (FSG, 1997), The End of a Family Story (FSG, 1998), and Love (FSG, 2000); a collection of stories and essays, Fire and Knowledge (FSG, 2007); and two pieces of short fiction, A Lovely Tale of Photography and Péter Nádas: Own Death. He lives with his wife in Gombosszeg, Hungary.
"A hugely ambitious, breathtakingly inventive and at times maddeningly dense novel intent on obliterating historical, geographical, literary and structural borders. "Parallel" doesn't really begin to describe how these stories interact with one another. They converge and diverge; they overlap; they crisscross, loop around and double back on one another, resulting in a defiantly nonlinear novel that attempts the daunting feat of recreating the fragmented, and perhaps even shell-shocked experience of living in Hungary during the 20th century."—Adam Langer, The New York Times
"A robust epic of a Mitteleuropa lurching out of totalitarianism into whatever passes for modern society . . . Hungarian novelist Nádas' stories are parallel in just the sense that Plutarch's lives are: They draw the reader to a moralizing conclusion . . . Nádas' book is as sexually fraught as anything by Kundera . . . War is a constant as friends drift apart and come back together over the decades; sometimes the characters have names and addresses, other times they are nearly anonymous figures swept up in events, such as one Gypsy prisoner of war called "the man with the glasses." Each character's life overlaps with another's, not always neatly. Nádas is forgiving of their many frailties . . . but in the end, under the rumble of artillery fire and the crush of history, all that is left of their lives—and ours—is "the ethereal shadows of poplars." A pensive, beautifully written tour de force of modern European literature, worthy of shelving alongside Döblin, Pasternak and Mann."—Kirkus Reviews