Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Attila Bartis

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Tranquility

Title: Tranquility
Author: Attila Bartis
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 292 pages
Original in: Hungarian
Availability: Tranquility - US
Tranquility - UK
Tranquility - Canada
La Tranquillité - France
Die Ruhe - Deutschland
  • Hungarian title: A nyugalom
  • Translated by Imre Goldstein
  • A nyugalom was made into a film in 2008, directed by Alföldi Róbert

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : damaged souls and their relationships

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Figaro . 15/10/2007 Clémence Boulouque
FAZ . 5/11/2005 Richard Kämmerlings
The LA Times . 26/10/2008 Tom McGonigle
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 18/10/2005 Andreas Breitenstein
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Spring/2009 Michael Pinker
Die Zeit . 26/1/2006 Adam Olschewski

  From the Reviews:
  • "L'Histoire s'affole, le communisme tombe, mais les rôles sont inchangés (.....) Dans ces faux-semblants et miroirs fragiles, ces identités écroulées, Attila Bartis tisse un roman en forme de toile d'araignée, où il file une réflexion sur le mensonge." - Clémence Boulouque, Le Figaro

  • "Mit beeindruckender Sprachkraft gelingt es Bartis, die Ambivalenzen seiner Figuren, ihre Haßliebe und selbstzerstörerischen Energien zu entblößen und dabei die Spannung über dreihundert Seiten zu halten. Nie gleitet er dabei in abstraktes Psychologisieren ab, immer bleibt er am Konkreten: am Schmerz." - Richard Kämmerlings, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Tranquility is a moving, emotionally complex, subtle, shocking novel (.....) Bartis comes close to exemplifying Louis-Ferdinand Céline's wonderfully provocative comment that one has to be a little bit dead to be really funny. (...) Bartis creates an atmosphere of believability in this novel without forsaking the use of irony." - Tom McGonigle, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Anything but tranquil, Bartisís disturbing novel portrays the dissolution of loyalties by examining their raw, clinical detritus." - Michael Pinker, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Weniger gefallen müssen die selbstreferenziellen, allzu konstruierten Momente, die Tatsache etwa, dass der Ich-Erzähler ein Schriftsteller ist, der sich über Thomas Mann auslässt. Und, der gravierendste Einwand: Es fehlt hier an Entwicklung. Die Hauptfigur tritt nicht wenig auf der Stelle. Sie muss über die Dauer des Romans mit lediglich einer Hand voll Merkmale auskommen, besteht vorwiegend aus Zwängen, zeigt sich emotional unscharf, sonst aber scharfsinnig ... Das ist sicher ein sehr herber Entwurf des Menschen. Wer ihn aushält, gewinnt dennoch." - Adam Olschewski, 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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Tranquility is narrated by a writer, Andor Weér, and is a novel about the three very damaged women in his life and their intertwined relationships. The novel begins with the funeral of his mother, whom he can finally lay to rest. For fifteen years they lived together in the same apartment that she refused to leave, for fifteen years he had to endure here questioning ("Wherehaveyoubeenson?") and general misanthropy.
       Andor's sister, Judit, was a very talented and dedicated violinist, a budding star who defected to the West as soon as she could -- to escape Mom more than Communism, defection offering a buffer that she hoped would keep her at a safe distance, so that she would not longer have to try to erase herself, as Bartis nicely has her try to do. Overbearing Mom was a star in her own right, a famous actress, but her career came to an abrupt halt as soon as her daughter betrayed the motherland. The authorities tried to get her to entice Judit back, and when she couldn't she went so far as to declare that her daughter was dead to her and even went through a semi-mock funeral, complete with coffin (an impressive but awful and creepy scene). Judit stayed abroad, the authorities were unimpressed, and Rebeka Weér's acting career was over; henceforward she stayed in her apartment, and woe any uninvited guest who wanted to drop by for a visit .....
       Andor can only stand up to Mom so much, but he does escape for short bursts. He tries to maintain the fiction of Judit staying in touch with her family by penning letters in her name and then having people who travel abroad send them, but Judit herself is never heard from again; as it turns out, the promising star was too damaged by Mom to truly make good a complete escape and turned to erasing herself again.
       Andor eventually finds a lover, Eszter, but she also comes with a lot of baggage, and it's a complicated relationship that develops. Mrs. Weér is no help, her reaction when Andor shows up at their doorstep with Eszter enough to scare anyone off. And it's not a matter of Andor standing up to his mother: this lady is such a single-minded, narcissistic, paranoid loon that there's nothing to be done -- until she finally conveniently dies.
       Rebeka Weér's strong, if highly unpleasant, personality certainly give Tranquility much of its momentum (careening through domestic catastrophes), but undriven Andor slows things down again. He and his fumblings -- and detours like a reading tour or his small attempts at escape from Mom, at least for a few days or hours -- are probably a necessary antidote to his mother's insanity, but leave the book oddly bogged down. Andor's relationships with Judit and Eszter -- especially that vacuum that Judit leaves behind, and which turns out to be even greater than he had imagined -- are well done, but there are an awful lot of deeply damaged souls the Bartis is juggling here. Yes, there's a comic side to it all too, especially Mom's paranoid insanities, but it's no pretty picture.
       The political leads to the personal: each of the women is, in a way, determined by political circumstances -- Juidt by that East-West divide that it would cost too much for her to cross back into, Rebeka by the authorities' control over who can and can't appear on the stage, and Eszter's more complicated childhood background. But aside from their causal effect, politics doesn't play much of a role in the story, even as Hungary is rapidly changing around them. Rebeka remains in her tiny bubble, unable and unwilling in any way to participate in the real world. And Andor is torn between all of this, buffeted around by the women in (and out of) his life.
       An interesting and very vivid psychological study, with some impressive scenes, but also some very difficult-to-take characters.

- Return to top of the page -


Tranquility: Reviews: A nyugalom - the film: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Hungarian-writing Attila Bartis was born in Romania in 1968, but now lives in Hungary.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2008-2009 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links