26 Down, 26 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Under The Frog involves the unlikely exploits of 2 best friends in post-war Hungary, travelling the country as part of an amateur basketball team. In the years between the end of World War II and the revolution of 1956, Gyuri and Pataki travel the country taking part in competitive eat-outs, dealing in imaginary smuggled arms and attempting to bed the odd countrywoman.

Author Tibor Fischer has taken what was the most difficult period in modern Hungarian history and pretty much told it from the perspective of lothario teenagers. Beneath the landscape of near-starvation, propaganda barrages and the constant fear of abduction by the secret police, is quite a special coming-of-age story, all told in a resolute deadpan, which initially adds measures to the hilarity.

Later on however, when the tanks start to roll and loved ones begin to die, that same deadpan tone begins to make sense. Much like in Catch-22, laughter is observed as the best defense against tragedy and hardship, and what was once funny and absurd becomes stoic and filled with pathos.

The first demand that Gyuri read out was for a change in the leadership of the Hungarian Working People’s Party. THat was the sort of thing that, say in 1950, just thinking about it would have got you in a ten-year stretch in an unlit cellar with swollen kidneys and icy water up to your knees. Now, what with Stalin smelling the violets by their roots, and Uncle Nikita rubbishing all his predecessors, that sort of thing was negotiable if you were accompanied by a very, very large crowd.

Under The Frog
(ISBN No: 0312278713) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Magnus Mill’s The Restraint Of Beasts.


2 Responses to “26 Down, 26 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)”

  1. 1 avalon July 2, 2006 at 22:35

    I am curious to know: where do you get your ideas for books (to read) from? I am so hard to please with books that I find it a challenge to find ‘good’ books.

  2. 2 billy July 2, 2006 at 22:43

    wow, this post went up like 15mins ago!
    i guess i just thin-slice quickly from a combination of attractive covers and quick read of the back blurbs. plus, i’m not very adventurous when it comes to genres – i’ve mostly stuck to things i enjoy like sf, war and the like.
    other than that, just whack lor.

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