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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

György Faludy: a hell of a good read

“My Happy Days in Hell”

The question begs: am I talking about my current context? Well, we have down days and we have up days, though luckily most of them are the latter. No, what I’m really referring to is the book by Hungarian poet-translator-writer György Faludy. And one of the issues with this is that as usual, whenever I read a book I fall in love with, I tend to end up living it out for real!
First published in 1962 – coincidently about the time Günter Grass published the Tin Drum – My Happy Days in Hell was only allowed for publication in his native Hungary in 1988 after the fall of the communist regime.

I came back from a short stay in incredible Budapest with it (buying it from one of the best bookshops in Europe, BTW, owned by the gentleman-philosopher Tony Läng-Dabbous) and was enchanted from the first sentence onwards by Faludy’s incredible courage of candidness, wicked wit, philosophical ramblings, poetic sorties into love and nature, and finally chilling reality. If you were to put Grass’ The Tin Drum, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Les Confessions and  William Boyd’s Les Nouvelles Confessions all into a  meat grinder and push the start button, two minutes later you’d come out with My Happy Days in Hell but spiced with a unique nip of Faludy paprika.

György Faludy
Over the past three weeks, Faludy’s book has become a companion, a friend. We share the same heady mixture of feelings for Morocco, the same dislike of extremes, the same reactions when faced with the absurd, the same love of nature and, why not, of Womankind. It is a biography that follows his escape from Hungary just before the outset of WW II, his life in Paris and then the necessity to flee the Nazi invasion to end up in Portugal and then Morocco and finally the United States where he eventually volunteered for the US army. In 1947, true to his love of the Hungarian language and believing in a democratic future, he returned to Hungary, only to be arrested by the Communists several years later.

Not-so-hellish for me, after all
He spent 3 years in a labour camp on trumped up charges – and this is where I am currently at, fifty pages from the end. I cannot stop putting down the book to gasp in amazement: caught between laughing out loud and choking down the tears of shock and indignation. If you want something to churn your emotions inside out, then György Faludy’s My Happy Days in Hell is definately for you! It kind of makes you step back a little from your own minor moments of hell at the office and sigh in relief at just how heavenly they are...

Read more about the amazing life of György Faludy on Wikipedia.

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