LOUD! – text and music
(Basszus! – zene és szöveg)
Novel (Új Palatinus), 2003, 196 pages
“your band’s got to have four heads, four explosive, dangerous heads”
Based loosely on Nagy’s own experiences, this semi-autobiographical novel traces the progress of a young bass guitarist through Budapest’s musical underground: his growing awareness of the world beyond Hungary’s borders, and, especially, his obsession with western music. As the story unfolds, he forms a band, wins a recording contract, learns to navigate Hungary’s club scene, and eventually – perhaps inevitably – grows disillusioned. In the beginning, the narrator of this novel is too young to understand the political situation around him and is too naive to act cautiously. Having seen the iconic cover of London Calling by The Clash, he wants to to play his instrument as loudly as possible, to smash it to pieces, and thus shatter the existing order around him. His band simply wants a hearing. (And of course a shot at the pretty girls in their school.)
The political climate changes, however – and the more successful his band becomes, the less there is to hold them together. What began as an experiment in punk anarchism ends up looking like a bitter marriage. The band makes records, tours, and makes some money – only to lose it just as quickly. Signed up by a multinational record company, they confront the ways of the Western music industry at a time when popular culture in their own country is changing by the hour, and music (and everything music stands for) is growing less vital and important.
Ironic, exhuberant, and authentically Eastern European, the tone of the novel is as fast and forceful as the music the main character plays, this fastness also reflected in the brief chapters of the book that can also be read as individual short stories. Its voice embodies the voice of a changing era but is deeply rooted in a specific time and place. It embraces the language of punk rock, political proclamations, Soviet-era advertising, street slang, and the obscure (and often hilarious) mannerisms adopted by Hungary’s music press under Communism. It also presents a fractured and fabulous view of Western pop culture, as filtered through an East-European sensibility.
Imagined encounters with his teenage idol punctuate the narrative: Paul Simonon, the bass guitarist of The Clash, has arrived in Budapest in search of the perfect bass sound and the perfect bass guitar. The narrator and Paul never meet, and while they eventually end up in the same place, it is never certain that they inhabit the same period in time. As the narrative unfolds, however, it becomes clearer and clearer that, spiritually, musically, and politically, they travel along parallel lines, adding layers of depth and meaning to each other’s experience.
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
ANGST (Novel, Ulpius Ház, 2007, 384 pages)
Set in the Budapest of the near future where skyscrapers transform the urban landscape and five metro lines cross under the city, this cyber-punkish tour de force tells the rise and fall of a talented comics writer who after the exorbitant success of his comics series Angst gets stuck in a day-job working for a media emporium, loses friends and loved ones one by one, and even gets involved in the underground world of media anarchism. Read more