“Metropole” Ferenc Karinthy, 1970 My excerpt was from pages 86-117 and it followed Budi, the main character

, as he explored the strange city he was in, in search of a way out. The book Metropole (Epepe) was written in 1970 but wasn’t translated into English until 2008 from Hungarian by George Szirtes. Plot Summary "Budai (in Hungarian, a native of Buda) is a Hungarian linguist attending a conference in Helsinki, but at the airport in Budapest he goes through the wrong gate, gets on the wrong plane and arrives in a city where no one understands him, despite the impressive array of languages he brings to bear. Driven along by what seems an endless, incessant rush throughout the city, he finds himself at a hotel and is given a room. He needs to return to the airport. He has to phone his family and colleagues to tell them what has happened. He is hungry. Queues are everywhere and people routinely push one another aside. Even if he reaches the head of a line, he cannot make himself understood. He spends days trying to make sense of their language, because he knows if he cannot make himself understood, he will not be able to leave. At one point, he dials phone numbers at random, hoping to find someone whose language he recognizes. What someone said yesterday does not seem to mean the same thing today (the rationale of totalitarian regimes). He learns the names of fruits and vegetables in groceries by putting labels together with produce. At his insistence, the elevator operator in the hotel, who is the only one in the city who shows some interest in him, teaches him numbers. He does not understand why. Perhaps she sees him to be as unhappy as she is. Everyone he sees is distraught, anxious, frenzied. His disorientation does not lessen. How does one live when every day is strange and the strange every day? His encyclopedic knowledge has been rendered useless. When he runs out of money, he gets work only illegal migrants can, his only option since he has no visa and the hotel has taken his passport. When he can no longer afford the hotel, he sleeps at the market where he stocks produce and roams the city in search of contact of some kind, a sense that he is not alone. One day he finds himself stripping naked at some kind of religious ceremony just to be doing what others are doing. Only the elevator operator—Bebe, Tyetye, Epepe, Etete, Ebebe, Djedje, Tete, he is never certain of her name—sustains him. She talks to him, though they cannot understand one another. They become lovers, and lovers do not need words. (You understand? he asks her. You understand, she answers. No, you don't, he says. You understand, she repeats.) Love is inherently subversive—it calls the everyday into question and can be a form of resistance against it. By the end of the novel, Epepe has given him hope, even if none is possible ("That there was nothing that was not them"). That he has become invisible, like most of the working class, has made the middle-class Budai a member of the proletariat, whose anger is directed against the totalitarian rule of the government. ("The violence of the violated," as Isabel Fonseca writes.) Revolution breaks out and the normally pacifist Budai joins the revolutionaries, pistol in hand, only to see it defeated quickly by the government. He escapes capture (and execution) and sees a brook that he

knows, just knows, will become a stream, the stream a river, and the river a sea, where he will find a harbor, a ship. "God be with you, Epepe," he thinks. "He was full of confidence. He would soon be home." Ferenc Karinthy Ferenc Karinthy was born in Budapest in 1921. He obtained a PhD in linguistics and went on to be a translator and editor, as well as an award-winning novelist, playwright, journalist and water polo champion. He is the author of over a dozen novels. Metropole is the first to be translated into English. liberal arts in preparation to become a linguist. In the latter part of the Second World War he was temporarily forced to go into hiding for deserting the military. While he did complete a doctorate in linguistics, Ferenc Karinthy’s early talent as a writer was already apparent in 1943 with the publication of his first novel, Don Juan éjszakája (A Night in the Life of Don Juan). From 1947 to 1948 Karinthy spent a year of study in Paris; upon returning to Hungary he immediately found himself in the midst of a murderous Stalinist regime led by Mátyás Rákosi. Before the beginning of the communist dictatorship, however, Ferenc Karinthy was able to publish two other books. His first work, Szellemidézés (Raising Ghosts, 1946), was a portrayal of the author’s recollections concerning his father and family, while his second work, Kentaur (Centaur, 1947) was an interesting novel with a linguist as its main character, a similarity shared by his later work, Epepe (now published in English as Metropole). All personal illusions naturally had to be laid aside in 1949; while the gay life of a boheme was no longer possible in the Stalinist rule of the time, Karinthy still refused to lose his head. Ferenc Karinthy almost immediately put his pen, into the dictatorship’s service. He did so with great success, a fact underscored by his recipience of the Kossuth Prize, Hungary’s highest honor, in 1955. Then this, too, came to an end; for a short time following the 1956 Revolution, Karinthy did not publish anything, choosing instead to work editing scripts in theatres located outside of Budapest. Things, however, quickly took a turn for the better under the regime headed by János Kádár: Ferenc Karinthy was one of this period’s most popular authors, a “petted favorite” liked by both the audience and the political powers of the time. While Karinthy never actually supported the communist regime in any direct form, he did not separate himself from it either, instead attempting to walk a thin line between those explicitly supporting the regime, and those who openly opposed it. As a result, Ferenc Karinthy found himself increasingly relegated to the “sidelines” as the literary world gradually grew to view him as a clown unworthy of any serious consideration, in spite of his success with his audience. The fall of the Iron Curtain did not change matters; by 1989 his name was barely mentioned in literary circles. Socialism’s dissolution had come too late, leaving Karinthy bitterly disappointed. By the time of his last television interview, Ferenc Karinthy had been reduced to a seriously ill, obviously extremely alcoholic wreck of a man. Ferenc Karinthy’s fate as an author is symptomatic of many artistic careers led during the time of socialism in Hungary: a childhood spent in a middle-class, talented family followed by the total rejection of almost everything that childhood meant in a sudden reversal

representing a kind of symbolic patricide. The author’s middle-age years mark a slight return to his original roots, only to be quickly followed by total collapse on both a personal and a professional level. According to this diary, Karinthy always held his novel Metropole, published in 1970, to be his most important work: “…it’s shaping up to be a sort of major work,” he writes on August 10, 1967. This view is also supported by the fact that—as opposed to his usual habit—the author spent years working on Metropole’s manuscript, an effort that did in fact succeed in expressing (albeit in a very cloaked form) Ferenc Karinthy’s genuine opinion of a socialist society. It is important to mention that Metropole first appeared in the form of a serial published throughout the year of 1969 in a daily paper with opposition leanings called Magyar Nemzet. Due to the novel’s obviously political message, Karinthy long doubted that Metropole would ever be allowed to appear as a book, especially in uncensored form. Naturally, Metropole could also be viewed as an example of fictionalized autobiography. The main character, Budai, is a linguist, just as the author was at the start of his career. Karinthy’s depiction of Budai can be seen as a self-portrayal of his own bewildered and painful attempts to adjust to the socialist world he inadvertently and unwillingly found himself surrounded by following his return from Paris. One of the novel’s recurring motifs supports this interpretation: in one part Budai, still hoping to unlock the secret of this country’s language, goes to a bookstore to purchase a dictionary. Unable to find anything remotely resembling a dictionary, he buys instead a volume of short stories purportedly written by a modern writer. The author’s picture appears in the book: “a man of about forty or so in a polo-neck jumper, his face round, his hair cut short, his body relaxed, apparently unposed. He was standing in front of a slatted fence, his eyes narrowing, his expression tired or slightly bored, with a slightly mocking smile playing about his lips as if he were in the act of suppressing a yawn." (p. 121) The narrator then adds that the face seems familiar to Budai, even though he cannot recall where he last saw it. The puzzle is solved forty-four pages later, when Budai once more looks at the book, although fully aware by then that he will never be able to read it: “Then he gazed at the photograph of the author on the flap (...) and he still looked familiar. He wondered where he might have seen him, who he reminded him of, why he was drawn to him. (...) One evening he returned tired from his work at the market and caught sight of himself in the bathroom mirror just as he was suppressing a yawn and it suddenly became obvious: the man in the photographs reminded him of himself.” (p. 165) A glance at Ferenc Karinthy’s photograph soon reveals that the picture described by Budai is a direct allusion to the novel’s author. For those still unconvinced that Budai and Karinthy, Metropole’s main character and narrator, are often one and the same, an examination of one of Ferenc Karinthy’s short story collections will banish any remaining doubts. Published in 1962, Kék-zöld Florida (Blue-Green Florida) displays exactly the same picture described through Budai’s eyes as seen on the cover of the unknown author’s volume of short stories: palm trees, a beach next to the ocean and a row of white summer homes stretching into the background. http://www.hlo.hu/news/a_parable_and_its_limits

Research Knowing all this about the author and how Metropole could have been influenced from his own experiences with socialism and oppression, which is something I can research into a bit and try and capture some of that overwhelming and oppressive feeling that I need in my images, as it seems to be a theme that runs throughout the book.