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Book Budapest. Chico Buarque by Chico Buarque (2005-08-15)

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Budapest. Chico Buarque by Chico Buarque (2005-08-15)

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  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • Bloomsbury Publishing plc (1870)
  • Unknown
  • 2
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Review Text

  • By Bryan Byrd on April 18, 2011

    This slim, lyrical novel by Brazilian songwriter and musician Chico Buarque was a bit of an enigma to me. Although it begins in a relatively conventional manner, eventually it slips into a surreal, unreliable account that probes the relationship between identity and language. Conceptually, that made the novel more intriguing, but the final chapters seemed rushed - especially in relation to the leisurely pace of the beginning. In that rather abrupt shift in both pace and purpose, I'm left feeling that I missed anything deeper that Mr. Buarque may have tried to communicate. On its own terms, I still think the novel is more successful than not, but similar to the only work I've read of Roberto Bolaño (Monsieur Pain), it strikes me as too self-contained - not irrelevant, but not especially pertinent to anything outside of itself.Ghostwriter José Costa, on a flight from Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro, is unexpectedly detained in Budapest, where he becomes enamored with the Hungarian language. It has such a siren-like draw on him, that when difficulties arise in his marriage, he chooses to return to Budapest rather than follow his wife to London for their annual vacation. Immersing himself into the life and language of the country, he stays for months, finding a teacher as well as a lover.As I read up to this point, I resigned myself to the idea that I had picked up a competent yet pedestrian novel of a writer's mid-life crisis, and when José leaves Hungary to return to his wife and child in Brazil, I expected a conventional ending. But here is where the story began to take on an odd shape. As a ghostwriter, José's last assignment had been to invent a biography for a wealthy but unremarkable man, and his over-the-top efforts have turned the man into a celebrity; when he returns to Brazil, he finds his wife is having an affair with this man, one whom José had essentially written into existence. Ironically, she is enamored with the man only because of José's words, something José had wanted for their entire marriage. Incensed and infuriated that his wife is loving him vicariously through this other man, he again stomps off to Hungary.To summarize anymore will reveal too many of the charms of the novel - suffice it to say that eventually, we come to doubt the reality of everything that has come before, and if we accept the fact that José can 'create' a man through his ghostwriting, then who has created José ? The Publisher's Weekly review from the novel's product page has a nifty phrase (metatextual gimmick) to describe the ending, which seems pretty apt as the novel constricts around the reader's mind like a Chinese finger trap the more we try to wriggle through it. Readers who delight in word games and literary paradoxes should find exactly what they are looking for in 'Budapest' - if they hang with it to the end.But I wonder as to whether it will have much broader appeal. Readers who are interested in a more straight-forward narrative will likely be frustrated, and those who *do* enjoy literary games will probably be left puzzling over what it is that the exercise is designed to do. In the end, it may best be described as a quirky vacation read, flawed yet lyrical and fun - but ultimately too intent on its circular track of internal logic for me to ever feel connected to it.

  • By slovakgirl5 on September 28, 2009

    Budapest: a novel was my first introduction to author Chico Buarque of Brazil. Apparently a world-renowned singer & composer (according to the book jacket info), this novel reads at times like a meandering tune. A lot of activity is packed into this short book, but the chapters in which Jose, our Brazilian narrator talks of estranged wife, Vanda, are written in a befuddling stream-of-consciousness mode that is hard to fathom and follow at times. Essentially, Jose--a frustrated ghost writer--suddenly opts to take a trip to Budapest and falls in love not only with the mysterious Kriska, but the Hungarian language itself ("the only tongue the devil respects").Kriska acts as a teacher of the Hungarian language to Jose, our anti-hero, but other than continually describing her "white white shoulders," she comes across as a limp, poorly-developed character rather than the "enchanting seductress" as described in the book's promotional chatter.It's not the fault of the translator of the story; Alison Entrekin should be commended for having endured and made sense of the stream-of-conscioussness prose in the various sections described above.Budapest: a novel is a European story to be sure, and our narrator a seasoned traveller to boot. There is an adequate amount of references to the local landmarks of Buda and Pest: the Chain Bridge, Sugarloaf Mountain, et al...it would be a good read for those readers attempting to learn the Hungarian language, as it mentions the trials and tribulations of learning this most difficult of languages.

  • By missir on October 31, 2010

    This is a masterly-executed literary work with a well-constructed plot. There are no apparent flaws, the author apparently achieved everything he set to explore, except I could not stop thinking it should have a been a poem rather than a novel. Some reviewers criticize him for not giving enough Budapest-specific details but this is beside point as the novel is not about Budapest but about a particular human condition. It could as well have been set in an anonymous central European country.The 40 year old individual telling us his story is not in a great shape - half hartedly engaged in his work of writing on others' behalf, less than half heartedly committed to his family, and just seemingly having a problem thinking straight and behaving coherently. He seeks a refuge from his troubles in embracing a foreign language and - surprize - a foreign woman. Now, for all the respect for the objective qualities of the work, it is difficult to enjoy it without experiencing some sympathy for the story teller, and it is my problem that I found pretty much none for this middle-aged trouble-seeker engaging into actions rather more typical for teenagers. It was all the way like been in a forced company of an inebriated and delusional person slowly letting the glimpse of the true events emerge from his stream of conciousness. It was an enervating and rather unpleasant read but I found that I had to finish it anyway, reaching the happy end (if there can be any happy end for a hero in his state of mental facilities). The author was certainly right in making it relatively short and may have missed an opportunity to create a masterpiece by writing it is a poem, which as a poet he probably could.I wanted to mention that I started reading this book because it was one of the many praised by the late giant of modern literature Jose Saramago in his "Notebook". This one ultimately was worth knowing about, and I will continue exploring the others.


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