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A review of Tranquility from Kurt H. Cumiskey in Library Journal


Bartis’s third novel (and the first to appear in English) is what György Konrád’s The Loser (1982) was for an earlier epochal shift in Hungarian history: its narrator’s struggle toward primarily emotional freedom mirrors Hungary’s transition from socialism to democracy. Winner of the Sándor Márai Prize when it was published in Hungary in 2001, this work has been superbly translated into English. When the narrator’s twin sister emigrates during an international violin competition, his mother—a well-known actress—is denied future roles. As a result, she exiles herself to their apartment for the remainder of her life. Despite the toll her increasing insanity takes on him, he dutifully cares for her. He is a tortured soul, at times narcissistic and cruel, compassionate and generous. Ultimately, he comes to believe that freedom, which he defines as “the kind of condition in which nothing ties us to the world,” is a condition unsuited to humans. The novel’s irony and humor are both shaded by its overall darkness. Though some readers might be uncomfortable with the amount of violence and sex, Bartis’s tremendous talent makes this highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.

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