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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Kornél Esti

Kosztolányi Dezső

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To purchase Kornél Esti

Title: Kornél Esti
Author: Kosztolányi Dezső
Genre: Novel
Written: 1933 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 233 pages
Original in: Hungarian
Availability: Kornél Esti - US
Kornél Esti - UK
Kornél Esti - Canada
Kornél Esti - France
Ein Held seiner Zeit - Deutschland
Le mirabolanti avventure di Kornél - Italia
  • Hungarian title: Esti Kornél
  • Translated by Bernard Adams

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Our Assessment:

A- : more story-collection than novel, but amusing and clever

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 21/8/2004 Tilman Spreckelsen
The National . 28/1/2011 Jacob Silverman
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 5/10/2004 Karl-Markus Gauß
Die Welt . 31/7/2004 Elmar Krekeler
Die Zeit . 19/8/2004 Dieter Hildebrandt

  Review Consensus:

  Recommend it

  From the Reviews:
  • "Kosztolányis Kornél-Esti-Geschichten sind kleine Capriccios, die Möglichkeiten ausloten, wo immer sie können: "Was wäre, wenn ?" fragen sie, laufen dann diese unbeschrittenen Wege ab und kehren wieder an den Ausgangspunkt zurück" - Tilman Spreckelsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The book is a series of episodes -- some high-concept vignettes, some fully drawn stories -- about the titular character, a doppelganger for the author. While the writer stays at home, Esti gallivants around the world piling up debts, seducing women and generally making a mess of things -- but not without having a good time. (...) In Kosztolányi's work, seemingly opposed notions often coexist, amplifying one another. (...) However unintentional, there is something quite moral about Kosztolányi's work." - Jacob Silverman, The National

  • "Der ganze Esti, seine ganzen Geschichten -- eine literarische Luftnummer. Aber was für eine. (...) Es sind Geschichten aus der Könnte-doch-sein-Welt. Einer Welt, in der alles möglich ist, was sich fabulieren, aus Wörtern schlagen lässt, in der Gespenster, Hoffmann'sche Nachtgestalten und brillante Weisheiten (...) an jeder Ecke lauern." - Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt

  • "Es ist eine ungarische Rhapsodie aus dem Jahr 1933, dem Jahr der europäischen Deadline, die zur Todeslinie werden sollte. Dieses wirbelige, wunderbare Buch enthält, vor der Katastrophe, letzte Nachrichten aus dem Kaffeehaus, der "Kirche der Journalisten;. (...) Es ist zugleich Divertissement und Experiment, Maskerade und Konfession, Jugenderinnerung und Altersresümee. Hier spielt einer diese sehr ernsten Spiele: mit der Sprache, mit den eigenen Einsichten, mit den Literatenalbernheiten, den Eisenbahnabenteuern, den Erlebnissen im Ausland." - Dieter Hildebrandt, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The character of Esti Kornél is Kosztolányi's alter ego, brilliantly introduced as a near- and then clear double of the author. Esti is the practical joker on whom the author can blame some of his wilder ideas and pranks (and they're pretty wild). At the beginning of the book the author tries to track his other half down: hearing he is a hotel he goes to the room in question but can't find him -- until he suddenly appears, in front of a mirror .....
       Esti suggests they collaborate on a work, a fragmentary collection of episodes from his life. Esti is even willing to let the author take full credit for writing it -- as long they use his name for the title .....
       The pieces include some that are personal ones as well some completely invented stories. He describes a stay at a super fancy hotel, for example, or his efforts at convincing a conversation partner that he is an able and willing participant in a conversation while in fact barely able to speak or understand a word in that language -- something he keeps up for an entire train trip.
       Some of the stories are more obvious and elaborate invention, such as a trip to a city where absolute honesty reigns, where advertisements emphasise how terrible the product (or book) is and cafés warn what bad clientele they attract -- a world where expectations are so low that reality turns out not to be half so bad after all.
       Among the most inspired pieces is the story of the inveterate kleptomaniac who feels compelled to steal, no matter what. After getting out of prison he gets hired to translated a British mystery, but he can't help himself, returning to his old ways, pilfering as he goes along, stealing things right and left from one version to the next: each wallet described has a little less money in it in his translation, each woman a bit less jewelry, every household is missing a bit of silverware.
       Kosztolányi is a cheerful writer, but there's a streak of very dark humour here too. A life-saver who at first asks for nothing and then, slowly, much too much is ultimately disposed of without too many qualm, for example. And Esti's attemtps to help a down on their luck family are also exercises in futility -- which he finally gives in too in the comic-ugly conclusion.
       The premises are generally clever -- though almost all very simple, taking one idea to its extremes. Yet it's the seeming normality of these situations that Kosztolányi does so well. Sure, these are odd situations, and yet if one finds oneself in such a spot .....
       Good fun.

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Kornél Esti: Reviews: Kosztolányi Dezső: Other books by Kosztolányi Dezső under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Kosztolányi Dezső (1885-1936) was a leading Hungarian author.

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© 2006-2011 the complete review

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