Balbec Beach

Mátyás Dunajcsik
Short stories (Libri), 2012, 263 pages

„There are a lot of beautiful cities in the world, but the most beautiful are those to which our long lost lovers have fled in their sorrow.”

Balbec Beach is not a place, and not a dance. Maybe it’s just a seaside breeze, a strange fall of light, a distant melody. But it’s there on the streets of Budapest, when a pale coffeehouse diva looks for her father in the night, and it’s there on the seashores of Venice, when the sentimental traveller has to choose between two lovers. In the depths of the Berlin underground, where ghosts float through the aisles with the tunnel wind, at the psychic asylums of unnamed highlands, and at the modern-day ghettos of the capital of Hungary, where a twentysomething translator discusses the nature of pornography with a forty-year-old woman. Or in the private salons of the Ritz in Paris, at the imaginary meeting of Marcel Proust and Sigmund Freud.

In the thirteen stories of this book, Mátyás Dunajcsik explores questions of art, history, memory, passion and (homo)sexuality in a charming and thought-provoking manner, in the vein of W.G. Sebald, Péter Nádas or Marcel Proust, inviting the reader to a number of European cities such as Venice, Berlin, Bratislava, Vienna, Paris and of course Budapest. In each of the stories, the protagonist is confronted with a work of art or an artistic problem that reaches to the very core of his or her existence; sometimes the most sensual, even sexual levels of personality. What can a modern-day scultpor-taxidermist do when his grandmother wishes to give him her deformed leg as a heritage after her death, so he can make a work of art from it? Or a pregnant singer who comes home to tell her father the good news about her child, only to find him dead in a boudoir of a male brothel? Or an adolescent boy who is invited to his uncle in Venice, but instead of a summer vacation, he is asked to help the mortally ill man in his suicide?

The book is illustrated by drawings of the Mexican artist Plinio Ávila, and includes the joint project of Dunajcsik and Ávila on the Berlin underground, in which drawings of the Berlin metro on real-life, used metro tickets is accompanied by a heart-rending story of the son of a demented underground driver.



„The main interest of Dunajcsik is the moment when art flows over the edges of books, entering the very private lives of his characters.”
Imre Zsolt Lengyel, Magyar Narancs

„The stories take place in Budapest, Berlin, Bratislava, Venice, Vienna and Paris. Seemingly only one of them is set on Balbec Beach, but in reality they all are. Some stories have allusions to other ones, which make the reader feel that although their time, place and characters may differ, they all belong to the same world in some sense, where everything is connected. Balbec Beach is the own special world of the writer and his stories, a place where even him can only come as a visitor, and where the reader can spend his or her holiday, immersed in the book.”
Mária Czimmermann,

„It creates a unique world with extraordinary, sometimes absurd stories, where it is only the reader’s taste who can set a limit, wether he or she likes this style or not which is sometimes very direct, sometimes romantic, conveying the events with poetic sensibility. Those who are tired of predictable storylines and overused clichés, and who like crude reality as much as the absurd and the surprising, will love this book.”
Krisztina Bender,


Download a story in German (Meines Vaters Bibliothek, PDF)
Download a story in German (Überfahrt zum Lido, PDF)
Download a story in Brazilian (Tango eslovaco, PDF)
Download a story in Croatian (Očeva Biblioteka, PDF)


Mátyás Dunajcsik was born in 1983 in Budapest and graduated in Aesthetics and French studies in 2011. Throughout the years, he worked as a poet, a translator, an interpreter, an organiser of a theatre festival in Cyprus, a blogger, a dramaturge, a freelance critic, a foreign rights correspondent and the moderator of critical panel talks. Currently he works as editor-in-chief of literary fiction at Libri Publishing. His first book, the Flyers’ Handbook was published in 2007 for which he was awarded the Sándor Bródy Prize, for best prose debut. He has participated in a number of international literary projects, such as the Odyssée du Danube (2007), the Junge Akademie programme of the Akademie der Künste of Berlin (2009) on recommendation by Péter Esterházy, or the European Writers’ Parliament in Istanbul (2010). Read more on the author

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