Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

‘The Tolstoy of Transylvania’

In his column in the Daily Telegraph, former editor Charles Moore praises Miklos Banffy as ‘the Tolstoy of Transylvania’. Ardent Banffyites like yours truly are always pleased when the Hungarian novelist gets attention in the English-speaking world, which happens all too rarely. I can’t remember how on earth I stumbled upon the works of Banffy, probably through reading the Hungarian Quarterly, a publication that — covering art, literature, history, politics, science, and more — is admirably polymathic in our age where the specialist niche is worshipped.

Simply put, Miklos Banffy is a must-read. If you love Paddy Leigh Fermor’s telling of his youthful walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople (the third and final installation of which we still await), then Miklos Banffy will be right up your alley. Start with his Transylvanian trilogy — They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting, and They Were Divided.

The story follows two cousins, the earnest Balint Abady and the dissolute László Gyeroffy, Hungarian aristocrats in Transylvania, and the varying paths they take in the final years of European civilization. The novels “are full of love for the way of life destroyed by the First World War,” Charles Moore points out, “but without illusion about its deficiencies.” Three volumes of nearly one-and-a-half thousand pages put together, they make for deeply, deeply rewarding reading, transporting you to the world that ended with the crack of an assassin’s bullet in Sarajevo, 1914.

After finishing his trilogy, Banffy’s autobiographical The Phoenix Land is worthwhile; some of the real events depicted shadow those in the fictional novels. As previously mentioned, it contains a description of the last Hapsburg coronation (that of Blessed Charles) and numerous amusing tales. After that, I’m afraid you will have to learn Hungarian, as I have neglected to do, as no more of this author’s oeuvre has yet been translated into English.

This post was published on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010 2:52 pm. It has been categorised under Books Hungary Nobility and been tagged under , , , , , .
12 Jan 2010 3:28 pm

This is entirely unrelated to this subject.
I am wondering if you, as a young man of erudition and sophistication, would give us your comments on the notorious Mrs Iris Robinson of Belfast?

Andrew Cusack
12 Jan 2010 4:53 pm

I have no comments to give on that subject.

Jason Reese
12 Jan 2010 6:07 pm

Thank you for this post; I was just bemoaning my lack of familiarity with Hapsburg literature.

Andrew Cusack
12 Jan 2010 11:53 pm

There are more Hapsburgian writers than Banffy (who was a Protestant after all). Joseph Roth, for example (an Austrian Jewish Catholic), known for his novel The Radetzky March.

Juan Novillo Astrada
13 Jan 2010 7:47 am

Dear Andrew,
Unfortunately we cannot see the comments properly.
Thanks, Juan

Baron v Hetterscheidt
13 Jan 2010 12:47 pm

A caveat: the old order did not end with the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, as deplorable and catastrophic an event as that was. It ended with the defeat of the Central Powers.
Had they won, then the old order would have continued right up until today. No Hitler, no Stalin, no Labour governments in Britain, a likely restoration of the monarchy in France; the list is endless.

Mary O'Regan
13 Jan 2010 5:55 pm

Dear Andrew Cusack,
This is my first reading of your blog – well done – it’s both fascinating and entertaining.
I know a devout Cathoic in London, the city in which I reside. This ‘devout Catholic’ speaks fluent Hungarian. The Hungarian government commended him for his fluency. I will give him the word about this blog post ‘next time I see him in Corpus Christi.

Marie Moncelon
4 Mar 2010 12:00 pm

I give my salute and thanks for the post of Baron von Hetterscheidt, whom pensées are completely in conformity with mines. I’m glad to read that, because such énoncés are so few written on public pages. Sorry for my bad english.

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