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Tranquility [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Attila Bartis , Imre Goldstein

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Book Description

Oct. 24 2008
Tranquility is a living seismograph of the internal quakes and ruptures of a mother and son trapped within an Oedipal nightmare amidst the suffocating totalitarian embrace of Communist Hungary. Andor Weér, a thirty-six-year-old writer, lives in a cramped apartment with his shut-in mother, Rebeka, who was once among the most celebrated stage actresses in Budapest. Unable to withstand her maniacal tyranny but afraid to leave her alone, their bitter interdependence spirals into a Sartrian hell of hatred, lies, and appeasement. Then Andor meets the beautiful and nurturing Eszter, a woman who seems to have no past, and they fall wildly in love at first sight. With a fulfilling life seemingly within reach for the first time, Andor decides that he is ready to bring Eszter home to meet Mother. Though Bartis’s characters are unrepentantly neurotic and dressed in the blackest humor, his empathy for them is profound. A political farce of the highest ironic order, concluding that "freedom is a condition unsuitable for humans," Tranquility is ultimately, at its splanchnic core, a complex psychodrama turned inside out, revealing with visceral splendor the grotesque notion that there’s nothing funnier than unhappiness.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Archipelago (Oct. 24 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980033004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980033007
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #712,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Reading like the bastard child of Thomas Bernhard and Elfriede Jelinek, Tranquility is political and personal suffering distilled perfectly and transformed into dark, viscid beauty. It is among the most haunted, most honest, and most human novels I have ever read. —Brian Evenson

A venerable—even Endgame-ish—addition to the literature of unhappy families. —Rivka Galchen

With impressive force of language, Bartis succeeds in laying bare the ambivalences of his characters, their love-hate relationships and self destructive energies . . . The play that mother and son perform . . . is part Strindberg and part Chekhov, but mostly sheer Beckett or even pure theater of cruelty. —Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Oddly beautiful and unsettling, the novel boldly illustrates the lengths people go to in securing their own private hells. —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

About the Author

Attila Bartis, born in Targu Mures (Marosvasarhely), Romania, has been hailed by readers across Europe as one of the most highly inventive Central European literary mavericks writing today. After completing his degree in photography, Bartis published his first novel A Séta in 1995 along with a collection of short stories. He has also been awarded the Tibor Déry Prize and the Sandor Márai Prize in 2001 for Tranquility (A nyugalom). He lives in Budapest. Tranquility is his first novel to appear in English.

Imre Goldstein has translated from the Hungarian A Book of Memories, The End of a Family Novel, Love, Fire and Knowledge, and A Lovely Tale of Photography by Péter Nádas, A Feast in the Garden by György Konrad, The House of Sorel by Pál Salamon, as well as many plays, stories, poems, and essays from both Hungarian and Hebrew. He received a PhD in drama from CUNY and has written and directed many plays. Goldstein has also published several collections of poetry and a novel, November Spring (Novemberi tavasz).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Upsetting Tranquility Feb. 20 2009
By buchwurm - Published on
In brief: a young man tries to cope with the love-hate relationship that binds him to his narcissistic and dominant mother and determines his entire life.

Highly recommended. I've read the Hungarian original and Goldstein's rendering won the Best Translated Book Award in 2008 so I hope that this masterpiece will be widely read by English speakers - it really deserves attention.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Beautifully written' May 22 2009
By Alison Daniel - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Perhaps like most people on this site, I read a lot. Often I'm left wondering why as so many books are disappointing. Fear not. Bartis' 'Tranquility' is engrossing, beautifully crafted and a delight to read.

His descriptions are sublime, unique and poetic.

The book itself is fine. From the size of it, the way the writing is spaced, the texture of the pages, it all presents a sensual delight for the fingers and eyes.

If you like books about and for the human condition, our awful rawness, our lies and deceptions, our truth and the way we love and hate, our society and climate, how it effects who we are, if you enjoy beautifully woven words and an intense comand of language, this is the book for you.

It is one of my all time favourites.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Untitled Review Feb. 15 2013
By Mirrani - Published on
Tranquility is anything but. This is an intense novel about a writer and his mixed up life. It gets racy, it gets emotionally violent, it has moments of pure insanity, but it is very, very good at all that it does. I was often finding myself drawn deeply into the emotion of the main character, the author who is dealing with his elderly, nutty actress-mother and his love life that has gone awry because of said mother and his living conditions with her. You don't have to have experienced what the narrator has experienced in order to become emotionally attached to what has happened to him because of the wonderful way this book is written.

The plot jumps around a lot and there were times when I felt somewhat lost as to where I had stopped reading. Several times I found myself wondering if my bookmark slipped and was put back in a different page than I remembered, either because the words I were reading felt like exact copies of what I had read before or because I felt so totally lost between what had happened and what was happening that I feared I'd skipped some pages. This writing style is part of the charm of the book, however and after a time you become used to it for the most part, though I wouldn't say it was my favorite aspect of the story.

People unwilling to read about intense sexual situations should probably avoid this book, as there are interactions with prostitutes, lovers and the narrator's mother that can become quite graphic at times. However, if that is your only reason to avoid reading, you might want to blush your way through the meat of the story because the emotional journey of the book combined with the quality of the writing shouldn't be missed.
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Feb. 12 2010
By Judith C. Ryfinski - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My copy of this book was in great condition and was sent in a timely manner.

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