Fiction Karoly Pap Azarel: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781586420192

Azarel: A Novel

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9781586420192: Azarel: A Novel

SET IN RURAL HUNGARY at the turn of the twentieth century and never before translated into English, Azarel chronicles the rebellious doings of young Gyuri, son of a rabbi in a modern Jewish sect. Papa Jeremiah, the paternal grandfather and an Orthodox fanatic, believes that by consorting and living with "pagans" whose "hirelings" they were, his son and his followers are helping to "melt the Jewish people in the furnaces of exile" - prophetic and haunting language for a book first published in 1937.
Taking him from his parents, Papa Jeremiah raises Gyuri in a tent for his first few years, and the boy suffers when the imperious old man, to whom he has become devoted in a child's deep way, dies. Gyuri is forced to return to his parents, who are now almost strangers to him. Rigid and respectable, the rabbi father expects filial obedience and Judaic devotion from his son, but gets something quite different. The boy is furious at Judaism and at his father for trying to make him believe in a God he has little use for. Eventually he leaves home, begs on the streets, and finally hurls himself into an early breakdown. At last he is returned to his parents, who consider his illness a reconciliation.
Dramatized with a sensibility that echoes Isaac Babel and Henry Roth, this is a realistic and powerful story, narrated with authority and force, by one of Hungary's finest writers.

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About the Author:

Born in 1897, KÁROLY PAP worked as a laborer, actor, and civil servant, and published numerous poems, stories and essays, and two novels. In 1944, he was taken to Buchenwald and refused to leave his fellow inmates, who recognized him and offered to help him escape so he could write about their plight. Later that year, he disappeared into Bergen-Belsen.

From Publishers Weekly:

A Hungarian Jewish boy struggles with Judaism in this heretofore untranslated 1930s classic, a gold mine of imaginative leaps by a Hungarian writer who died in the Holocaust before he had the chance to build an oeuvre. In a neutral, autobiographical voice, the young narrator reveals his most eccentric daydreams and secrets in a luscious and highly visual fashion reminiscent of Nabokov's Speak, Memory. When Gyuri is a child, his parents send him to live with his grandfather, an Orthodox fanatic. Papa Jeremiah lives in a tent, with few belongings except for religious items, and he will not allow Gyuri any toys. Making the landscape itself a plaything, Gyuri invests inanimate objects trees, shadows and other objects with imaginary life. When Jeremiah dies, Gyuri returns to his parents and siblings, but he misses the surreal quality of life with his grandfather. He realizes, too, that his grandfather gave him more attention than his parents. However, like any child, Gyuri vacillates, sometimes considering himself the undeserving recipient of his parents' benevolence. He lashes out against Judaism, questioning God's existence, calling his rabbi father a hypocrite. After his father punishes him severely, Gyuri runs away from home, only to suffer a breakdown and return to his family and, one thinks, to begin to adopt their ways. This work impressively balances taut plotting with persuasively portrayed spiritual growth. The novel is both the story of a racial identity crisis in a world teetering on the brink of the Holocaust and a mini-adventure. With its expressionistic drama and its unerring understanding of human desire, it is bound to put Pap on literary maps.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Karoly Pap, Paul Olchvary (Translator)
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