ANGST – The handbook of the urban guerilla
Novel (Ulpius Ház), 2007, 384 pages
„The arrival of capital was quiet, swift, and effective, like an assassin’s work. Suddenly its presence became visible everywhere: its smell, the scent of money, could be detected even through the exhaust fumes. Budapest became irrevocably sexy.”
A cult novel at the time of it’s first publication, Angst recounts the rise and fall of an unnamed, talented comics writer in a near-future, cyberpunkish Budapest, an ever-growing, sensual and depressing city where skyscrapers transform the urban landscape and five metro lines cross under the city, but the grandeur of the 19th century and the remains of the war co-exist with each other. The protagonist and his best friend, the graphics designer Graf start a successful comics series entitled Angst, which quickly becomes from an underground artictic endevour into a major media phenomenon when the CEO of a big media emporium, Baumgartner buys it for his company, Paper Tiger. The work brings the narrator success and money but at the same time he becomes part of the mechanism that he always wanted to avoid, and the new situation eventually destroys his friednship with Graf, who disappears forever from his life. The narrator becomes a regular employee of Paper Tiger, working his ass off at an unnamed floor of a new office building, the Electric Heart, while his personality slowly starts to dissolve and his life becomes more complicated and confusing than ever.
Caught between three women, each representing different ways of dealing with his life, he cannot decide. Should he be with Zhora, the smart DJ making a living out of terrible jobs, who might just be his true love, but who’s not even willing to emerge above the current circumstances? Or with Pril, the account girl of Paper Tiger, superwising the workflow of Angst, who would be the easy and quick way forward in his career, but who’s only as sexy as a television ad? Or the mysterious Greta, he accomplice of Karel, a secret underground resistance fighter submerged in the urban jungle? Karel and Greta, as a kind of post-modern „Baader-Meinhof duo” are both media-anarchists, late descendants of the urban guerillas who attack the Budapest informational mechanism and the money-fuelled media empires with the available tools of technology. Karel moves in the illegal and is pursued by the police: for him, Greta is the only connection to the legal world. Greta and the narrator meet in the office building of the Paper Tiger and that is where some sort of a relation forms between them. The narrator unwantedly becomes an accomplice to the anarchists and assists to their fall. The end of the story is an amok run but we are not sure if the narrator really is out on the street and he’s really climbing the Electric Heart office building or he’s just sitting at his deck and in this process does his personality get „written apart”. In all cases, after a long monologue he winds up at a psychiatry.
Thick with pop-cultural references, vivid dialogues and mood-setting descriptions of the city, Angst is a thrilling ride of ambition, talent, betrayal and the inevitable corrosion of all human relations in a world controlled by money and the media, painting a picture of a would-be Budapest in a way that has never been done before in Hungarian literature.
FROM THE PRESS
„The return of the textual and philosophical worlds of writer geniuses such as William Gibson, Paul Auster and Miloš Urban, in a Hungarian literary novel? Up until now, it was just a distant dream. The third book of Gergely Nagy, not at all under their influence, but probably inspired by them, and driven by similar needs and a similar determination, has established a new type of the – definitely – Hungarian novel (I don’t have words for it yet), one that is still intellectual despite (or because of) the integration of underground and peripherial genres, and which (most probably) will grant it the status of the ‚cult novel’, and rightly so. We’ll keep talking about it for a long time!”
Péter Rácz I., Litera.hu
„Gergely Nagy has a message in his story, but rather makes the reader think then tire him. The novel mixes the worlds of cyberpunk films, comics and high literature, and the result is a unique, smart but easily readable, entertaining text, which is exceptional in Hungarian literature.”
Péter Hományi, Kultusz.com
„It constantly surprises, thus fascinates me: either with the plot, or some narrative gimmick (the sudden cuts of flashbacks and fast forwards for example, or how the face of Budapest distinctively changes in the last third of the book), and just won’t leave alone the reader (me) for even one moment. […] The novel Angst by Gergely Nagy can be read as a labyrinth of contemporary questions, to which there are no (good) answers, because they always keep generating more and more questions.”
Endre Balogh, Prae.hu
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gergely Nagy was born in 1969 in Budapest. Studied drama history, creative writing, script and play writing at the University of Theatre and Film Studies, graduating in 1992. Worked for several theatres throughout Hungary as well as for the public service television (Magyar Televízió). Since his graduation he writes fiction. He has three books published, two volumes of short stories (Give me a point 1999, Loud! 2003) and a novel (Angst 2007). Currently he is working on a new novel. It’s working title is HILVERSUM, based on stories and events of the author’s ancestors and goes through two centuries in Central-Eastern Europe. Since 1999 he works as a journalist an editor. From his teenage years he has been involved in Budapest’s music scene. Currently he plays the bass for a band named ‘Eat me’. More on the author
ALSO BY THE AUTHOR
LOUD! (Novel, Új Palatinus, 2003, 196 pages)
This rock’n’roll novel tells the story of a young bass guitarist through Budapest’s musical underground in the changing times of 1980-90: his growing awareness of the world beyond Hungary’s borders, and his obsession with western music. Through the fast-paced, short chapters we see him starting a band, finding success, and in the end growing disillusioned, while still fantasizing about Paul Simonon, the bassist of The Clash. Read more