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by Esther Kinsky
Translated from the German by Martin Chalmers
Reviewed by C. LaRiviere

Oppressive would certainly be the best word to describe Esther Kinsky's world. Oppressive, hot, sticky, dusty, and incapable of getting itself out of the mud. Any attempt at beauty is promptly shredded until all that is left are traces of bleak, sweltering reality. Kinsky wants her reader to feel the heat in this book, which takes place in the middle of the hottest Hungarian summer in remembrance. Add to that fact that the village in question is seemingly sequestered from any sense of civilization or culture that would usually breathe life into what should be a quaint town. Instead, the village seems to consist only of a brothel, a run down bar and a few parched fields surrounded by railroad tracks. The only glimmer of hope is a single summer resort near the river, attempting to live up its reputation as the symbol of a normal summer.

But even the resort, or üdulo as it is called, has been beaten down by Kinsky's thesaurus, each additional word sucking out any attempt at a happy time. The text is as bogged down by her adjectives as the semi stream-of-consciousness technique she uses, but not in a manner that is detrimental to the text.

The reader feels like they have been thrust into the work, gasping to find a place amidst the other characters, characters so lost that they do what they can to make it to the next day, grasping at what they can reach. For the men, this consists of a guzzle of beer at the local bar after working in the fields, followed by a strut at the brothel, trying to escape their wives who are most often described as masses of flesh, who provide nothing more than presence in a bed used only to straighten out weary bodies. It becomes too difficult to feel anymore; even readers must keep their minds open lest they miss out on an affair, a stroke, a death. The heat, and Kinsky herself, masks even these seemingly important events in the lives of the Onion Men, The Kozak Boys, the New Woman, and the Antal of this town; no one has any energy to even properly react.

Their lives become moments; moments in a brutal summer to help pass the time until September and the cooler weather can settle in. Until then, the characters continue to live their disparate lives, occasionally providing their narrative voice, but never really understanding what it is that brought them to that town and that life. One can only hope that a fresh drizzle of rain will be able to rinse their minds and bodies, but under Kinsky's hand, it is more likely that the characters' lives will just fade into the heat, becoming dust easily swept off the resort porch and forgotten.

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