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Péter BÍRÓ
( 1964 )

» Only What There Is (1991)
» Going Home (2002)


1964 born in Budapest
1985-90 graduates in Hungarian and French Literature and Linguistics from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
1990-present freelance writer, periodically publishes short stories in the periodical 2000

Only What There Is

The greatest merit of Bíró's first novel is the fluid and playful narrative tone, full of self-irony. In it, "devoid of the sense of time," the protagonist is suffering from pangs of love, while his high-living friend is trying to lift him from the depths with the idea of promising business and the company of two attractive and sensitive girls. In the course of this story, narrated with quiet self-irony, the turning point comes with a courtly love scene (the poem written by the protagonist is related in prose), where an affection is formed that results in jealousy, a symbolic dual and real death. The novel seems to do away with everything that is easy to lose anyway: the homey scenes of friendship, the pub (called Morgue), ruined by the expansion of consumer society - even the motherly elderly landlady dies. Yet the words in the symbolic framework of the novel playfully mean their opposite: the opening words ("But yes! Yes, yes!") are uttered by the protagonist's friend as he tries to persuade him, whereas in the seemingly negative words in the last sentence ("No, no, I don't think so, I'm gonna think") the protagonist refuses to "do something silly". The novel has been called "an example of a generation's fiction".

Going Home

Péter Bíró's second novel, as a family novel should, unfolds in three planes of time. In the present, the narrator is a young father who has just lost his aunt who raised him, and so (to come to terms with his mourning) he travels to the country to sell the old family house and get rid of his memories. These memories lead to the recent past, into the student years of the narrator (this layer connects to Bíró's first novel), and into still earlier years, into the world of the parents and grandparents. This layer, this era, full of grotesque scenes, and the absurdities of the age, is portrayed perfectly in the characters as well (the childhood of the narrator, the world and stories of the grandfather and his Hrabalian friends, the relationship of the child and his young aunt); it becomes the peak of the story. "[T]he narrative structure of the novel ... makes clear that to sell the house which stands for the past is an impossible task: one cannot get rid of one's past just like that, partly because one-time events cannot be related chronologically, cannot be made easy to shake off, that is, distant. Everything is connected with everything else, the house that contains events as a sponge almost becomes the symbol of how time transforms into space. This way the reader becomes involved in the life of a family, and instead of the past he or she is walking within the space of a text and can only gradually figure out the identity of the characters, who are mentioned by their first names, and in what way they are related. It is like arriving as a stranger to a family meeting and learning only in small steps the system of relationships." - Zsófia Szilágyi

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