Some recommendations for Central European fiction

I recently asked a commenter on a Guardian thread for some recommendations for Central European fiction, which she (I believe, though I could be wrong) kindly provided in the comments to my second Yoshimura review. I thought the comments worth pulling out into their own post, for my own ease of reference and in case anyone else was interested.

Here’s the recommendation:

sorry to switch to your blog from the Guardian post, but I did not want to take the conversation into another (from my point of view: selfish) direction.

You’ve asked about some recommendations on Central-European lit; I have mentioned Péter Nádas there – he is very postmodern and pretty demanding (but very rewarding). However, his first translated work, The End of a Family Story, is quite accessible. In the more traditional line (following your Kosztolányi and Szerb line) Attila Bartis is a good start; his novel, Tranquility, won the best translated book (in the US) award a couple of years ago. Then there is Embers by Sándor Márai – I am not a big fan of his, but have to admit he is an excellent writer (died in the 80s but he did not write anything for decades (!) before his death). The Book of Fathers by Miklós Vámos is an excellent novel on the near-past of Hungary. And of course, Fateless by Imre Kertész, who won the Nobel prize for Lit for this Holocaust work of his.

And there are others as well from the region (I stayed with the Hungarians this time), but I do not want to provoke your patience.

Good luck,


The only one of those I know is Embers, so I’m delighted to have this list. Kinga, in case you see this please do provoke my patience, I’d be delighted to hear more and from neighbouring countries.


Filed under Central European fiction

15 responses to “Some recommendations for Central European fiction

  1. I wasn’t mad about Embers.

  2. leroyhunter

    I thought Nádas sounded interesting when I first heard (very vaguely) about him but I’ve also read some negative views.

  3. “Very postmodern and very demanding” sounds like it would attract some negative reviews.

    I’m sure some hate him, I may, but I’ll probably give him a try to find out for myself. When someone uses phrases like “more accessible” in relation to an author’s book it suggests the others may be quite hard going if you don’t take to him.

  4. leroyhunter

    You’re right: there’s no substitute for giving it a try yourself. I just haven’t got to the stage of feeling “I must read his stuff.”

  5. And the only one I know is Fateless (or Fatelessness) which I reviewed on my blog. I think I read the earlier translation and heard the recent one is better so I bought it but haven’t read it yet (other than doing a little comparison of the odd para). I liked it a lot – it’s a sort of innocence to experience book but in a very specific way. He builds up the horror of the Holocaust so chillingly. We the readers know what’s going on way before our young narrator does.

    The book of fathers is vaguely familiar too but I haven’t read it. Thanks for sharing this, Max.

  6. just in case you haven’t already come across this 20 page overview of central european literature which appreared in July’s Eurozine, I think you will find it covers most of what you need!

  7. leroyhunter

    Very interesting link ronald young. It makes Nádas sound pretty intimidating…also interesting about the reactions to Stasiuk’s work, I have one of his which I hope to get to soon. Plenty to pick over.

  8. I read Péter Nádas Book of Memories about 12 years ago (pre-blog) and loved it. Hard work, but rewarding. It’s an interesting insight into the Hungro Austrian empire.

    Last year I read Sándor Márai’s Esther’s Inheritance but found it a bit histrionic. Review here:

    Bohumil Hrabal’s I Served the King of England is a classic of Czech literature. Review here:

  9. Embers I’ve read. I also have The Book of Memories in my TBR stack. Thanks for the post. I’m always on the lookout for more central and eastern European lit.

  10. I’ll look that review up WG.

    Ronald, I hadn’t come across it and I’m very pleased to have the link. Thanks, I’ll be printing that off.

    I have a Stasiuk at home, 9, which I’ll read come Autumn (it doesn’t seem a Summer book somehow).

    Kimbofo, thanks for the links. I have a copy of I Served the King of England (one my wife liked as I recall) and I’ll read your reviews with interest. The insight into the Austro-Hungarian empire bit of the Nádas makes it more tempting to me. It’s an interesting period.

    Kinna, what did you make of Embers? Did you write it up at your blog?

  11. And there is also a piece about contemporary Hungarian fiction from this website –

    My blog is from the Carpathian mountains

  12. Thanks Ronald, I’ll print that out too.

    Thanks too for the blog link, I’ll have a poke around later.

  13. I read Embers way before I started my blog, which is less than six months old. I liked it at the time. I’ve wanted to read more about the Magyars in literature but haven’t done so.

  14. winstonsdad

    I ve the bartlis on tbr pile ,heard of couple of the others ,all the best stu

  15. Let me know when you’ve read them Stu, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Glad to hear you liked Embers Kinna, I’ll add it to the TBR pile at some point.

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