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Skylark Paperback – Mar 2 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (March 2 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173392
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173398
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 12.8 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #177,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By A Customer on April 9 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an unusually fine short novel which conveys the spirit of life in small town Hungary at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. If you are unsure where to start with Kosztolanyi, I would read Skylark first and then move on to Anna Edes or his short fiction.
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By MJ on June 23 1998
Format: Paperback
I generally agree with what the previous reviewer has stated, although I found this short novel (as well as Anna Edes) brilliant and almost totally flawless. A book which I didn't want to finish simply because I truly enjoyed the experience of reading it.
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By A Customer on June 14 1998
Format: Paperback
There is nothing earth-shattering about this novel except the unusual clarity of Kosztolányi's descriptive powers. More so than the novel Anna Édes, however, Skylark puts a burden of thought onto the reader. Kosztolányi only narrates, offering no judgements or opinions, and so his narration is very focused. The translation preserves this and is generally praiseworthy; Kosztolányi's characteristic terse, direct style and colorful phrasing come through unscathed.
This edition has a nice 10 page introduction by Péter Esterházy, which gives interesting information about the author as well as some background information about Hungarian literature. The cover and binding are, in my opinion, quite handsome also.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Kosztolanyi's best novel April 9 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an unusually fine short novel which conveys the spirit of life in small town Hungary at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. If you are unsure where to start with Kosztolanyi, I would read Skylark first and then move on to Anna Edes or his short fiction.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
"A Perfect Novel" May 2 2010
By Bartolo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found out about this little gem through Deborah Eisenberg's review in The New York Review of Books and would send anyone interested to that website for her own eloquent praise. "A perfect novel," she called it, and not only writes extensively and effusively about it but submits to an online interview in its cause.

There is originality in the conception and plot of the novel, wonderful descriptive passages, and, even rarer, an unremitting honesty in the author's treatment of his characters. We are not allowed to look down from a distant perch at these small-town, constrained people with their modest and circumscribed lives, nor, as they become close and vivid to us, are they elevated to heroic or even special status. Kosztolanyi avoids the formulae of tragedy, pathos, and (despite the chapter headings and humor) farce, nor is he content to serve up social science, fraught with self-justifying psychological and sociological descriptions. We are presented with an account that invokes all those genres, but finally is a synthesis, is nuanced and fully, compassionately human.

I would leave it to Ms Eisenberg to provide more detail than that, but having great esteem for her own short stories, I myself didn't require it. Every line of this slender volume counts, and to describe it overmuch seems almost beside the point.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Simply Stunning June 23 1998
By MJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I generally agree with what the previous reviewer has stated, although I found this short novel (as well as Anna Edes) brilliant and almost totally flawless. A book which I didn't want to finish simply because I truly enjoyed the experience of reading it.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Simple, bittersweet, and thought-provoking. June 14 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There is nothing earth-shattering about this novel except the unusual clarity of Kosztolányi's descriptive powers. More so than the novel Anna Édes, however, Skylark puts a burden of thought onto the reader. Kosztolányi only narrates, offering no judgements or opinions, and so his narration is very focused. The translation preserves this and is generally praiseworthy; Kosztolányi's characteristic terse, direct style and colorful phrasing come through unscathed.
This edition has a nice 10 page introduction by Péter Esterházy, which gives interesting information about the author as well as some background information about Hungarian literature. The cover and binding are, in my opinion, quite handsome also.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The bourgeoisie of provincial Kakania Oct. 26 2011
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This deceptively unsettling novel tells the story of the Vajkay family over one week in September 1899. The Vajkays live, in almost cloistered fashion, in Sárszeg, a backwater town in the grandiose Austro-Hungarian Empire of Franz Joseph and the Habsburgs. Father Ákos is fifty-nine, a retired archivist; mother Antónia is fifty-seven; and daughter Skylark (one of the most incongruously named characters in fiction) is thirty-five. She dotes on her parents, and in truth they are all she has, because she is -- there is no other word for it -- ugly.

The family's inveterate routine is interrupted when Skylark goes to stay with relatives on the plains for a week. Because Skylark had done all the cooking, Father and Mother have to eat out, at the King of Hungary restaurant. There they meet old acquaintances and they are drawn out of their shells into the provincial social life of Sárszeg, including a night at the theater and, for Father, eating and drinking with the Panthers, the local club of bon vivants. Father and Mother are rejuvenated, at least temporarily. But then it is time for Skylark to return. Was she, too, re-invigorated over that week? Does she have any new prospects for marriage? Or do things return to the way they were?

From that outline SKYLARK might sound like pretty mundane fare. But Dezso Kosztolányi, one of the leading Hungarian writers of his time, makes of it a very engaging light novel, alternately funny and poignant. The writing is brisk, deft, and assured.

On one level SKYLARK is a superb portrayal of the bourgeoisie of provincial Kakania, a keen yet gentle satire of their smug but gormless existence. For example, the only two subjects Ákos Vajkay enjoys reading about are the genealogies of Hungarian nobility and the history of coats of arms; every evening before going to bed he checks behind the furniture and in the wardrobes to see if anyone is hiding there; the show-stopping number during their theater night of culture, a performance of "The Geisha", is a vaudeville song ending "Chin Chin Chinaman, Chop, Chop, Chop!"

At the same time, it depicts the proper and correct - but oh so achingly empty - life of the Vajkays. "Skylark", indeed. The ending is ineffably sad. And death hovers over everyone.

Although written in 1924, SKYLARK is not at all dated. And although set in provincial Kakania, it has a universal import.

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