Esterházy Update

If you read much about the 2008 World Voices festival, you probably came across the name of Péter Esterházy, who was a hit everywhere he went—sharing the bill with Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, and others; protesting government incursions into our privacy; and talking with Wayne Koestenbaum.

Or perhaps you were ahead of the curve, and read about his masterwork Celestial Harmonies in 2004, when it was published in the US (and was raved about in Slate by none other than Aleksandar Hemon—another festival participant this year).

In any case, a couple of excellent blogs flagged this recent article in Hungarian Literature Online about his follow-up to Celestial Harmonies, called Revised Edition. After writing 1,000 pages about his male ancestors (who more or less ran Hungary for a few centuries, from what I understand) in the former book, he discovered that the most immediate of these ancestors, his father, was an informant for the Communist government which had brought low his aristocratic clan.

It’s an amazing story. I heard Esterházy tell it to Koestenbaum back in May—and then, more recently, I read Esterházy’s preface to Revised Edition, which provided some additional details. The preface was translated for us by the wonderful Judith Sollosy, who also translated Celestial Harmonies. We thought we might publish it along with the Koestenbaum conversation in PEN America 9 (which will also feature a typically smart and gorgeous essay in five-word lines by Wayne). For a variety of reasons, the preface didn’t work in this particular issue—but yesterday I had the chance to talk with Judith, and got some good news about another Esterházy project: a very different follow-up to Celestial Harmonies, a novel about mothers rather than fathers, called (in the Hungarian original, anyway) No Art!

Judith has agreed to write something for this blog in the near future, filling in
Esterházy's growing American fanbase on all of these matters. So if you're a part of that group, watch this space.

(Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan, taken at the Town Hall reading, 2008 PEN World Voices Festival.)

1 comment:

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