Iván Sándor, Az éjszaka mélyén, 1914 Novel, 180 p. (Hungary, 2012)
Synopsis (please scroll down for French Version)
The author is invited to a literary reading in a German city. The evening’s topic is war in literature. The event takes place surrounded by a photographic exhibition. The author is introduced to the photographers, the Frenchwoman Susanne-Alyette Picard and the Hungarian András Jllés. The photographers each have provided a photograph to the exhibition from their families’ photo albums.
One of them shows the Frenchwoman’s mother in 1918 with a young soldier in French uniform. The other is a family photo taken in Lvov, on the Russian front. And there can be seen the same young man, this time in the uniform of the Habsburg monarchy.
In 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, the Hungarian student Adam Kiss begins a journey to Paris. He has hardly arrived when the First World War breaks out. The borders are sealed. He is given the choice of internment as the citizen of an enemy state (Austria–Hungary, an ally of Germany) or recruitment into the French army as an experienced horseman. Adam chooses to become a French soldier.
In the First Battle of the Marne, he is wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans. During an inspection visit to the prisoner-of-war camp, Adam reveals to an officer of the monarchy his Hungarian origins. He is dispatched at once to the Russian front with an Austro-Hungarian hussar regiment. Wounded in the Battle of Galicia, he wanders about the snow fields until he stumbles upon his hussar regiment. Adam is granted three days vacation, during which he meets Anna, whose father was a noted professor in Lvov. The family is Jewish. A family photo with Adam in it is taken.
This is the photograph that András Jllés tells about eighty years later.
During the night, Anna and Adam are united, but war grants them only one night of love.
Lvov is stormed by the hussars; Anna’s family is murdered. In the decisive Battle of the Piave River, Adam is again seriously wounded. He is taken to a French/Italian military hospital.
Now the history of Alyette-Laurentis Tholoson (the mother of Susanne-Alyette Picard) is told. During the war, she marries a French officer, Henri Picard. In order to be able to remain close to him, Alyette enrolls as a nurse at a military hospital near Piave. This is the hospital to which Adam is taken. One of the doctors photographs the pair.
This is the other photograph, whose history Susanne-Alyette Picard relates eighty years later.
In the photograph appear Alyette-Laurentis Tholoson and a Hungarian hussar, the unknown father of Susanne-Alyette.
After a passionate night of love, Adam must flee the hospital. He is again with his Austro-Hungarian regiment. Few survive the Battle of the Piave River. Adam Kiss is saved by his commander. They proceed on foot toward their homeland.
During the time of the Weimar Republic, having lost the war, Hungary begins a merciless slaughter between the “Red Revolutionaries” and the “White Counterrevolutionaries.” Adam is assigned by his commander to the Whites.
Only now does he realize how greatly the war has made him a spiritual and bodily cripple. When he is ordered to shoot an innocent man, he refuses, even though he knows that it will cost him his life.
The First World War brought an end to a Europe that had existed for centuries. The empires of the Hohenzollern, the Habsburgs, and the Romanovs vanished. What remained were many unsolvable problems in the lives of individuals and nations. Only later did future generations understand that the slaughter of the First World War was but a harbinger of the even more devastating Second World War.
Since in the First World War, hand-to-hand combat was the rule, the protagonist was continually confronted with the hell of knowing that death could come at any moment. Who didn’t kill would himself be killed. In war, one is reduced to one’s essential self, and even this will later waste away. A few brief adventures keep Adam from entirely abandoning hope of survival. The history of Adam Kiss finally leads us to keep in mind that it is always possible to resist evil.
Long, complex sentences are avoided. The tale is told at a galloping “hussar” tempo.
This novel speaks primarily to the reader who is interested in mysteries, adventure, and the history of the twentieth century.
From Hungarian reviews:
It may be that “The Lives of Adam K.” is the first novel in the history of world literature that tells the story of a person in the First World War with such complete coverage of space and time.
(Mária Illényi in Könyvhét)
Whereas the novelists Céline, Remarque, und Sholokhov tell the story of the battles of the First World War from the point of view of their respective nations, Iván Sándor describes them from the particular point of view of the mutually opposed nations. There is no clear victor here in the moral sense. Thanks to the book’s excellent organization, the reader is swept along with the narrative.
(István Margocsy im Prae.hu)
The plot transmits the book’s basic themes with great intensity: what has occurred somehow never finds a resolution; both time and history are mysterious and unending. A strong book by Iván Sándor.
(Gábor Ménesi in Jelenkor)
With its dispassionate and dense narrative style, Iván Sándor expands the plot of this novel into a cosmic vision. Here memory is nothing other than a dismal proof of the randomness of survival.
(Gábor Murányi in Heti Világgazdaság)
“The Lives of Adam K.” neither judges nor condemns. There is division of roles between victim and perpetrator, commander and commanded. Rather, the near-term and long-term consequences of the war’s dehumanization are thrown together in a common midden.
(Attila Bombitz in Könyvpiac)
This outstanding novel is certainly the best among all of Sándor’s novels. This is indeed the first European novel whose history touches all the European fronts of the First World War.
(Tamás Ungvári –atv-Fernsehen)
Exposé Au fonds de la nuit 1914, Non Lieu 2015
L’ouvrage d‘Iván Sándor traite de la premičre guerre mondiale. Son protagoniste, un jeune Hongrois arrive ŕ Paris en juillet 1914. Enrôlé dans l’armée française, il est fait prisonnier par les Allemands, combat ensuite, ŕ sa demande, au sein de l’armée austro-hongroise, participe aux batailles sur les fronts russes et italiens, et, aprčs la guerre et la chute de la Commune hongroise, aux expéditions punitives de la terreur blanche, jusqu’au jour oů, refusant d’exécuter un ex-soldat rouge, il est abattu par son propre commandant.
A travers le sort tragique de son héros, en proie ŕ une crise d’identité permanente, l’auteur dénonce l’absurdité et les horreurs de la guerre, aussi bien que les ravages psychologiques qu’elle engendre chez les survivants. A ce titre, « Au fond de la huit, 1914 » s’apparente aux grands classiques de la littérature consacrés ŕ ce cataclysme, au Feu ! de Barbusse ou A l’Ouest, rien de nouveau de Remarque.
Né en 1930 ŕ Budapest, lauréat du prix Kossuth, Iván Sándor est l’auteur, entra autres, de Filature, roman traduit en français et en allemand.
Kritiken / Reviews:
reviews still to come
More works of this writer:
Drága Liv (Dear Liv)
Századvégi történet (An End of Century Story)
Az Argoliszi-öböl. Roman (Working Title: The Argolian Gulf)
<-- Iván Sándor