Novel (Libri), 2013, 350 pages
“Can’t you see all the power, all the possibility behind football? The communists did. But they couldn’t use it the right way.”
In the summer of 1954, just one year after the legendary “Match of the Century” against England that brought the astonishing 6:3 result in favour of Hungary, the People’s Republic of Hungary is preparing for yet another football victory, the the FIFA World Cup finals. Everyone is certain that the Golden Team, also known as the Magical Magyars, led by Ferenc Puskás, will win the final match, so the whole country is participating in the preparations for the celebration of the would-be world champions, from the highest levels of the Communist Party down to the most humble communities in tenement houses.
But when the dream of the much anticipated victory fades away with the last minutes of the lost match in Berne, the enormous numbers of football fans start marching and yelling in the streets of Budapest in a demonstration that soon escalates into something nobody would have guessed could ever happen in socialist Hungary, as some ever shout the word “revolution”.
The historical novel of Szabolcs Benedek recounts this fascinating and forgotten episode of Hungary’s recent past through the colourful (and often mismatched) inhabitants of a typical Budapest tenement house: the ex-Nazi communist enthusiast who now acts as porter of the house, the retired military man of the ancien régime, and the Jewish couple who survived the camps of Nazi Germany.
Was this “soccerialist revolution” a simple outburst of football hysteria, or the first sign of something that would become a real revolution in 1956? Was it a dress rehearsal for riot control, or the first moment of liberty? Nobody knows, but this novel helps us imagine how it was there and then, right in the centre of events.
FROM THE PRESS
“A novel about very old times, a time when – at least that’s what they say – hundreds of thousands went to see soccer matches, when this game was all part of our lives, and a goal, a shy (not a ’throw-in’!) could have fundamental consequence on the fate of the nation or a love affair. A rich novel that contains national destiny, love, shys, goals, hundred-thousand crowds.”
“This novel is first and foremost a light-hearted, humorous and reader-friendly book infused with subtle irony.”
Ádám Lénárt, Revizor Online
“There is probably no other country in the world where a silver medal is as unequivocally considered a failure as in Hungary. The thing that is a well-deserved success everywhere else is a tragedy here. And the most painful silver medal in all the history of Hungarian sports is undoubtedly the one we got when we lost the 1954 FIFA World Cup finals. Szabolcs Benedek uses this grave event as the basis for his graceful, well-written and self-confident novel.”
Márton Benedek, kotvefuzve.hu
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Szabolcs Benedek, born in 1973 in Budapest, studied to be a politologist. He began publishing reviews and short stories in 1994. He is the first Hungarian translator of the novel The Vampyre by John Polidori, which was published in 2003. Later in 2005 he published the Hungarian translation of the Dream Journals by Emmanuel Swedenborg. He lives in Budapest with his two daughters. He is the author of several works of fiction and non-fiction, most recently a vampire trilogy set in fin-de-siècle Budapest. More on the author