Hungary

F

©‎ Park KonykiadoBalázs Dániel Görföl
Ritkán olvasni olyan felszabadult és intellektuális könyvet, mint a német irodalom csodagyerekének új regénye. ( Rarely does one read a book that is as laid back and intellectual as the new novel by the wunderkind of German literature),
Jelenkor.net, 4 December 2014


Daniel Kehlmann: F ©‎ Magvető VerlagDaniel Kehlmann is probably familiar to Hungarian readers primarily for his novel Measuring the World. As far as esprit, elegance and artistic quality are concerned, F, which was published last year, is a match for that extraordinarily successful volume in every respect. Measuring the World is a fictionalised twin biography of Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss. This new book is set in contemporary Germany, at the time of the great financial crisis, with back references to the 1980s.

On account of the characters, German critics asked themselves whether the novel was about the Catholic church, the crisis in the financial sector and in the world of art, but Kehlmann is much too sober and specific to be able to assume that he had ideological intentions of that kind. As he said in an interview, he guards against symbols; his protagonists are not incarnations of abstract contents – they are who they are. First and foremost, F is about the members of the Friedland family, and that is precisely what is liberating, namely that for us as readers, it is completely sufficient and worthwhile to delve into their exceptionally beautifully-elaborated characters without constantly seeking profound contents. Of course, if one reads attentively, one learns a great deal through the characters; it presents itself as an obvious choice, at least, to think about a wide variety of different areas of life.

… the novel directs an attack - not a malicious, but a gentle one - on the reader’s soul, or at least on his apparently certain assumptions. Anyone who previously thought there was a clear dividing line between belief and disbelief or that other people knew what was going on inside them, anyone who went so far as to think that people who seem to be the most interesting … do not have a horror that they themselves are mediocre, anyone who perhaps was confident that life was a constant story rather than a confused sequence of mere impressions and uncommunicable experiences, might be unsettled by reading this novel. Although he should not expect any definite answers or instructions from Kehlmann, of course.

I can only hope that F will also find readers here. At last, a book that is unsettling without indulging in helplessness and that involves the reader with its subtle joys and fripperies in such a way that one can safely trust it.

Daniel Kehlmann
F (Origin.: F)
Translation: Zsuzsa Fodor
Budapest: Magvető, 2014
ISBN 9789631427813