For those who don’t know, this year’s Hungarian publishing sensation (there’s always one) turns out to be a novel called The Fake Ape by a young female writer going by the name of Lilla Jakobi. The English translation is due later this year; though one is encouraged, as ever, to read it in its original language.
So far as I can tell, the novel juggles several narratives. The first follows a soldier fighting in the First World War. The second follows the book he takes with him. We read this story, so to speak, with him – and witness his reactions first-hand. That is, until he dies, whereupon the novel reaches a false ending; the first story finishes because the soldier is no more; the second because the soldier is no more to follow it. What happens next, perhaps predictably, is that someone else picks up the abandoned book and starts reading it, from the beginning, so we get the same story accompanied by fresh reactions. This person, however, doesn’t die (at least not until she has finished the book within the book), sparing us a third reading of the same story.
Are you with me? This is, needless to say, a rather simplistic synopsis of the proceedings, but it gives one a sense, a taste, a glimpse of the wider picture. For the rest, I invite you to read the book. From what I can gather, it looks as though the novel dances a wild jig with that ever-present evil: sentimentality. However, it is also said to say something, maybe even a profound something (less certainly a subtle something), about the power of literature, which shouldn’t be scoffed at, not on my watch.
More on this, I dare say, a little later…