Here are 10 books by nine Hungarian authors that are considered “must-reads” by some, and that are also available in English.
Jókai is one of the classic and well-known authors of the late 19th century in Hungary. His best-known book is The Man with the Golden Touch – or Az arany ember in Hungarian –, which tells the story of love and marriage, and when the two are just incompatible. Some may also recognise bits and pieces of the legend or myth of Midas. The book is a Hungarian classic.
This book is definitely not for everyone, as it details the events of the Holocaust and World War II, after the author’s own experience in Auschwitz. Although the book is not an easy read, it is an important one. Kertész is also the only Hungarian ever to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Another book that may not be easily digestible for everyone. The book follows a child welfare worker and the case of one singular child. Throughout the book, the world is painted in a dark and horrible way, through abuse and suffering, which reflects how the author himself viewed it.
The novel follows the arrival of a circus to a small town and the mysterious and chaotic events that surround it and unfold. The people of the circus, especially the plotting Mrs Eszter, creep the town’s residents out, while the protagonist of the book, Valuska, has his head stuck in the clouds. The novel “lifts the reader along in lunar leaps and bounds,” according to The Guardian.
The play by Madách is considered one of the hallmarks of Hungarian literature, and it is another classic. The play depicts Adam and Eve in various time periods and settings, and with each new experience, they become wiser and more aware. The play is written in verse and was first published in 1861.
Another classic, one that still remains a part of the elementary school curriculum. The book is not very long, nor is it too difficult to read. The story is about a group of boys, their friendship, and adventures. They need to protect their plot from another group of kids who want to take it away from them, and at the end, a hero is unexpectedly born.
The book is about three parallel stories of love and betrayal. One follows the love triangle of a Hungarian writer in East Berlin during the ’70s. The second is composed by the writer about a German aesthete, inspired by his own experiences. The third one is about a childhood friend of the writer who brings a twist to the story.
Magda Szabó is the most translated Hungarian author, and Abigail – or Abigél – might just be her best-known novel, so it is only natural that it is on this list. The novel follows Gina, the headstrong daughter of a general, during World War II. Gina is put into a boarding school as her father has to leave, which she does not appreciate. After much trouble and a failed escape attempt, Gina decided to put her fate in the hands of Abigail, a statute at the school, who legend has it will send help when you leave her a message.
Another great piece of writing by Szabó. The novel follows the relationship between the main character and her housekeeper. The book reflects a lot on human nature and may evoke contemplation during and after reading, as it is quite a deep piece of literature.
This dark comedy follows a newly married man, on his honeymoon, who is at a crossroads, as he tries to decide between a married, responsible adult life and a life of thrill and adventure we may all crave deep down.
Source: Daily News Hungary