My Happy Days In Hell

A while ago I posted about the new Central European series Penguin have published. I’ve only just got round to reading some of them, and so far I can report that the going is good.

I started with Josef Skvorecky’s The Cowards, which is very good – reminiscent of Jerzy Andrzejewski’s Ashes and Diamonds. Both are set during the immediate aftermath of World War II, with the Russians closing in on one side and the Americans on the other. However, The Cowards is Skvorecky’s first novel, written at the age of 24, and this shows. The novel is quite lightweight in comparison to others dealing with similar subject matter. It’s very well observed though, and an enjoyable and interesting read, and comes reasonably recommended.

From The Cowards I went on to read My Happy Days in Hell by György Faludy. This is just completely brilliant. It is an autobiography which offers up chunks of Faludy’s life, from his flight from Hungary during World War II and subsequent exile in Europe, to his time in Morocco, and then on to his return to communist Hungary, and his arrest and imprisonment in a labour camp. This is a necessarily complex work just because the author’s life spanned so many different worlds, and his autobiography spans a number of genres as a result – beginning with a tale of exile, going on to a Bowles-esque interlude in Morocco before descending into Levi or Solzhenitsyn territory for his incarceration. It’s very very good indeed, and I completely and utterly recommend it.

I’d write more, but I’m off to Edinburgh tomorrow morning, so I’m afraid I’ll have to leave it at that.

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