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Levente Csender
( 1977 )

» Inverse Fall (2010)


Levente Csender was born in Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania) in 1977. In 1991 he moved to Budapest, Hungary, where he teaches Hungarian at a high school. Three volumes of his
short stories have been published so far. The central element in Csender’s works is the description of the changes in the sense of Hungarianness of the narrator who hails form Romania and its attendant dilemmas (for example, what it feels like being a Hungarian in Romania and, more to the point, being a Hungarian who hails from Romania). His writings, documentary and even sociographical in nature, examine the situation of Hungarians living in Romania under Ceaucescu’s dictatorship and the years immediately following the change in regime on the one hand, and the diffi culties faced by those Hungarians who left Romania as they try to integrate into Hungarian society. Csender’s
themes accord with those found in much Eastern European literature (in the works of Richard Wagner and Franz Hodjak, for example) insofar as it describes, with reference to the evolving of identity and the dilemmas inherent in the crossing of borders, contemporary man’s sense of insecurity.

Inverse Fall

Levente Csender’s most recent collection of short stories focuses on the phenomena of recent Eastern European migrations attendant on the change in regimes and the struggle for survival closely associated with them. In Fordított zuhanás (Reversed Fall), the narrative focuses not only on a man with a Hungarian identity who has left Romania; the horizon is wider, encompassing the problem of national and cultural identity, as the text mirrors the transformations in them. At the same time, the realistic narrative is informed by a surreal vision touching on the magical. Part of the narratives and short stories depict childhood experiences through recollections of events that occurred in the shadows of one of Eastern Europe’s dictatorships (“Barbárok vagytok, emberek!” – “People, You are Barbarians!,” “A forradalom hőse” – “Th e Hero of the Revolution”). The adolescent narrator, a witness to events during the Romanian revolution, provides a frequently naive viewpoint to narrate the lynching of the regime’s agents, the vilifi cation of the innocent, and the tribulations of those left at the mercy of the surviving power apparatus. Balanced between the boundaries of fi ctitious and documentary prose, the narratives off er a true record of events. Some, such as “Reversed Fall,” which describes the fate of the narrator’s former school teacher, treat the lives of ordinary people in contemporary Eastern Europe, as they struggle with illness, alcoholism, or domestic life – a road that leads from social decline to the complete loss of hope, ending in suicide. Th e story “London” is a meditation on self-identity and alienation, outlining the harsh and contradiction-fi lled fates of guest workers in Western Europe from the viewpoints of university students looking for employment. “Tranzitváró” (“Waiting in Transit”) describes the agony of the narrator, traveling home for his grandfather’s funeral who, due to airport delays, cannot make it back in time. Th e imagined dialogue with the grandfather continuously breaks the stream of the narration, and so calling on the grandfather and the chance to call on him proves stronger than the tragic dénouement. Th e short story’s treatment of time – juxtaposing the grandchild waiting at the airport with visions of the funeral procession – brilliantly solves the transcendent farewell from the narrator’s grandfather. Levente Csender’s volume provides a nuanced and precise impression of the problematics of Eastern European identity alongside a vivid picture of life as lived from day to day.

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