Neighbours of the Night

ADY Endre

Short stories are not the genre that secured Endre Ady’s fame — the success of his remarkably innovative and dramatic poetry has nearly completely obscured his other writing. Yet he achieved his rst success precisely with excellent essays in periodical publications, including the appropriately named Nyugat (West) which, with its focus on radical developments in the arts in Western Europe, almost overnight shook Hungarian culture out of its provincial slumber.

The stories in Neighbours of the Night demonstrate his multifaceted talent; his ability to write in a light-hearted ‘feuilleton’ style, while other stories have a particularly colourful Hungarian atmosphere. Some of them are drawn from the truly multicultural Transylvania, then a part of Hungary, now in Romania. In ‘Spring Mass,’ the attractive and voluptuous Valeria, who has already had her ll of Father Stephen, asks him to say mass for her boring husband who is, however, still alive — the priest complies, falls ill with fever, and the following day Valeria and her new lover kill her husband. Other stories have a more cosmopolitan avour. In ‘Flora,’ a millionaire buys a husband for his Vienna-educated but deaf daughter, but he runs away from her during their wedding night, feeling that he cannot make love to a ‘corpse’. In ‘Cleopatra Worth Ten Million’ the heiress Cleopatra elopes with a bad Italian painter she met only once before. In ‘The Mute Couple,’ a deaf-mute couple produce a daughter who becomes a famous singer, and the parents are dragged out of the auditorium at their daughter’s concert.

These short stories, whose plot line is so reminiscent of folksy anecdotes are however true short stories, with tense, symbolic narrative themes with, typically, an erotic element, reminiscent of Ady’s volume of poetry Blood and Gold. The stories have nothing to do with domestic bliss, middle-class comforts, straightforward narratives, or psychological realism; their central themes are deafness, death, corruption and decay, inextricably linked through associative references to pleasure and blood. ZV


I have not heard yet what she was saying, for I was kissing her slippers by then. Man is a pitiful creature who is capable of love even if a moment before he had no appetite for it. And so I felt compelled to seek out her eyes, to gaze up at her face — and thought I had surely gone mad. For Marcella Kun’s eyes were no longer blue but nearly black, her hair was red, her lips were like rubies. She was other than herself, and, for a moment or two, we were clearly bewitched.

(Of course, today I know that Rozalia Mihaly had come to work this witchcraft. I recognise her perfectly from the descriptions of those whom I had encountered and interviewed since, those who knew her very well, Rozalia, the grandest, the mightiest woman in my life.) 145