Kosztolanyi simplified the Hungarian sentence, made it shorter, purer. The nineteenth-century sentence was long-winded, the meaning wandering through long periodic structures, and in any case the Hungarian long sentence is a dubious formation because the words do not have genders and the subordinate clauses are more uncertainly connected to the main clauses than in the reassuring rigour of a Satzbau (German sentence construction). Such sentences totter along, uncertain even of themselves, stammer a little; in short, are extremely lovable.Esterhazy's charming conflation of grammar and human awkwardness is itself "extremely lovable" and it makes me want to borrow one of his books from the library. I am glad to have accidentally stumbled into another undiscovered country.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
During last week's visit to the library, I impulsively borrowed a novel I'd never heard of before: Skylark (1923) by the Hungarian writer Dezso Kosztolanyi. It's an intriguing book, and I'll tell you more about it when I get further into it, but Peter Esterhazy's introduction is interesting as well. In the course of writing about Kosztolanyi, Esterhazy discusses the evolution of the Hungarian literary sentence: