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Author's page

Nándor GION
( 1941 - 2002 )

» Amphibia in the Cave (1968)
» My Brother Joab (1969)
» On This Side (1971)
» Flower-adorned Soldier (1973)
» Rose Honey (1976)
» This Day is Ours (1997)
» To Find Gold (2002)


1941 born in Szenttamás
1959 finishes trade school as a certified metal-worker
1959-1963 degree in Hungarian from the Ujvidék Univeristy
1963-83 journalist at the Ujvidék Hungarian Radio
1973 Híd Literary Award
1983-85 director of the Ujvidék Hungarian Theatre
1984 Neven Award
1993 moves to Hungary
2002 dies in Budapest

His prizes include:
1987 Déry Tibor Award; 1988 József Attila Award; 1991, 1994 Book of the Year Award; 1994 Life-work Award of the Soros foundation; 1996 First prize of the MTI-PRESS Short Story Competition; 1997 Márai Sándor Award; 2000 Laurel Wreath of the Hungarian Republic

Amphibia in the Cave

Gion began his fiction-writing career with a highly experimental work about his colleagues (and therefore himself): Amphibians in the Cave examines, with noticeable irony, the problems of the generation of young writers associated with the Symposium literary journal.

My Brother Joab

Here Gion breaks with experimental prose and turns towards a more traditional narration, telling straightforward stories in a straightforward way. Joab was a warlord of the biblical king David, who was corrupted by the power he wielded and became a tyrant. The ‘Joabs’ of this novel are people (policemen, members of the political hierarchy, corporate executives) wielding power to facilitate their own financial well-being in the Yugoslavia of the Sixties.

On This Side

This short story cycle is set on a particular, all-too-familiar street: here the long-time residents do not like the newcomers.

Flower-adorned Soldier

Virágos Katona is the first book of the quartet, Latroknak is játszott, a series of novels spanning fifty years set in Nándor Gion s native village Szenttamás. Virágos Katona describes twenty years, from 1898 to 1918. The troubled friendship of two teenage boys, Ádám Török Csószogó and István Gellei Rojtos, is set against the meticulous description of the village and the intricate relationships between Germans, Serbs and Hungarians living in the community. The story is told from István Gellei s perspective, though the narration is somewhat unorthodox, as the narrator disappears for whole chapters, mostly when relating the fortunes of the Krebs family, the family of his future wife, Rézi. Gion s style is called fortified realism , accurate descriptions punctuated by somewhat monotonous but often absurdly funny dialogues. Life is not easy in Szenttamás, where there is bitter tension between the nationalities, as well as between the rich and poor of the village. The people here are prone to violence and are ferocious fighters, often engaging in brutal brawls. István Gellei is a young musician who feels somewhat uneasy in the village and spends most of his time trying to crack the mystery of the Virágos Katona (the flower-adorned soldier). The Virágos Katona is a figure in the pictures of the village s calvary, depicting the passion of Christ. He is a soldier who is in the process of whipping Christ with a nailed cat of nine tails, and the only man in the twelve paintings displaying an utmost and complete sense of happiness. István Gellei is mystified by this soldier, and spends most of his time studying the pictures because he believes the key to happiness must lie in the secret of the soldier. When he meets an awkward young swineherd, Gillike, who is considered by many a halfwit, István Gellei takes refuge in the stories of the imaginary world where he is the hero, suddenly understanding that this is precisely the secret of the soldier, the ability to tune out the world, as it were, and find absolute dejection and bliss in the inner landscapes of in one s own imagination. He masters the technique and spends more and more time in the imagainary realms of his fantasy. His friend Ádám Török chooses a path of violence, trying to achieve wealth by theft and burglary and eventually murder, and will evolve into an outlaw. The First World War changes everything, when István Gellei is taken to the front where he understands that the people fighting each other are in fact not human, and survives mainly due to his ability to dwell in escapist fantasies. Ádám Török avoids the draft by hiding, but after three years he cannot bear the confinement, leaves his hiding place, is caught and imprisoned. István Gellei is wounded on the elbow, and for a while it seems that he will be unable to play his instrument, the zither (though he does find a technique of playing with a stiff elbow); at the same time, it seems that his ability to take flight into the imaginary realms of the Virágos Katona has been lost once and for all. The armistice will bring other changes. With the demise of the Austro- Hungarian Monarchy, life in Szenttamás will change in many ways, as the village will from then on belong to the Yugoslav kingdom, and later on to Yugoslavia, where Hungarians will face being a minority.

Rose Honey

The second volume of the Latroknak is játszott quartet is a chronicle of events in Szenttamás from 1918 to the beginning of the Second World War.

This Day is Ours

The third volume of the Latroknak is játszott. Gion had spoken about his intention of continuing the trilogy ever since the publication of the second volume. He gives a vivid and gripping description of the events of the World War, and the atrocities committed by the ruthless elements of the then evolving Yugoslav communist elite against the Hungarian and German minorities. This subject had long been considered taboo, and it took longer than expected for this third part of the trilogy to appear.

To Find Gold

Gion’s last novel, this fourth volume of the Latroknak is játszott quartet, tells about the events following the Second World War up to the Fifties. The novel only appeared in a serialized form in the Új Forrás literary journal. (Gion always liked to publish his novels serialized.)

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