The Parasite

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Author: Ferenc Barnás
Translated by Paul Olchváry

9780857427403 | HB | pp. 384 | 2020 | Seagull Books

A breathtaking blend of Dostoevskian visions, episodes of madness, and intellectual fervour, all delivered in precise, lucid prose, The Parasite is a novel that one cannot escape.

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Ferenc Barnás’s Az élősködő (The Parasite) is an unusual and unnerving novel that only in the most cursory way is rooted in time and place. It could be argued that its particular preoccupations (which are spiritual and philosophical, appearing in the guise of an elaborate compendium of mostly sexual obsessions) betray its provenance – an atomized, inchoate post-communist East and Central Europe. Yet, in spite of stray references to Kant and Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade, this is not a philosophical novel; neither is it, for all its resemblance to a case study in abnormal psychology, a psychological novel. It is, rather, a compelling, sophisticated, often abstruse exploration of the Self, a profound meditation on the communicability of real and imagined experience. Its language is powerful, evocative, the author’s knowledge of the real world comes through in his metaphors, even when dealing with high abstractions, which is often.

The unnamed young narrator is the parasite, feeding off other people’s physical and psychological ailments; but he is also a host who attracts people with the most peculiar quirks and manias. The hero recalls that as a young adolescent he had a decadent attraction to illnesses, doctors, and hospitals; he loved staying in various wards, and feigned symptoms in the hope of ending up, even if for a short time, in a hospital bed. The real descent into his private, hallucinatory hell begins after his first sexual encounter; he becomes a compulsive masturbator, and then a compulsive fornicator. But to his horror, he realizes that casual sex is not casual at all for him — each one-night stand results in insane jealousy: he imagines previous lovers hovering over him every time he makes love to a woman.

When he gets to know a woman referred to as L., he thinks his demons may have finally subsided. But when he hears of her past, the jealousy returns. He seeks relief through writing — by weaving an imagined tale of L.’s amorous adventures. What will he do with this strange manuscript, and can it bring him healing?

Author:

Ferenc Barnás
Translated by Paul Olchváry

ISBN:

9780857427403

Publisher:

Seagull Books

Binding:

Paperback

Pages:

384

Year of Publication:

2020

Edition:

First

Condition:

New

Country of Origin:

India

About the Contributors

Ferenc Barnás is the author of four novels in his native Hungarian, including The Ninth (2005), longlisted for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award in the US; and Másik halál (Another Death, 2013), which won Best Book of the Year in Hungary and in forthcoming in English translation from Seagull Books. He has won three of Hungary’s top literary honours, including the Sándor Márai Prize. His works have been translated into English, French, German, Czech, Croatian, Serbian, and Indonesian. He and his wife live in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Paul Olchváry has translated many Hungarian books for leading publishers, including Ferenc Barnás’s The Ninth and György Dragomán’s The White King. He translated The Parasite under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (US). Raised in America by Hungarian parents, he spent a dozen years as an adult in Hungary. The publisher of New Europe Books, he lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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