The Little Town of Miracles

Ervin Lázár
Short stories (Osiris), 1996, 184 pages

“Then came another shout, ‘My hand! My hand! Look, my hand!’ and lo and behold, our bodies were dissolving, too, our hands turned translucent, our clothing paled in colour, and for a moment I could even see the nearby hills through the bodies of the people huddled next to me, and the moment after, not even that, just the hills and the trees.”

The book is based on the author’s experiences as a child growing up in a remote Hungarian village where the people were poor in goods, but rich in tales. Through the telling of fifteen stories, it brings to life the wondrous world of the countryside as people experienced it, which throbs to a different rhythm than the world of city folk. From a naked angel boy who sneaks into a kitchen to pilfer kitchen utensils at night (“The Sneak Thief”), through a village blacksmith who shoes the Devil’s horse (“The Blacksmith”) and the tale of a Party functionary who comes to portion out the land among the peasants but dazed by his power over them leaves with a promise to resurrect the dead (“The China Doll”), each story takes on the quality of a hallucinatory exploration into that part of the soul where beauty, hope, and yearning live in close proximity, and where miracles are a way of life.

The lively story-telling, the sparse yet evocative beauty of the language, the persistent yet nonobtrusive narrative presence, make The Little Town of Miracles a memorable and highlz enjoyable example of a very special brand of folk surrealism, the Central European counterpart of the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez, but most especially, Isabel Allende – and as such would make an important addition to the corpus of imaginative literature now available in English.

Judith Sollossy



Ervin Lázár (1936 – 2006) was a writer and dramatist. His books for children have made him a renowned and much-loved household name, while his novel, The White Tiger (1971), established him as a major writer for adults. (In White Tiger, a huge white tiger casually walks up to the hero of the story and refuses to leave his side, fulfilling every wish of its new master, who thus becomes omnipotent. As the story imperceptively slides into the political arena of Communist Hungary, it poses the question: Given the power to do good, why does man revert, time and again, to aggression instead?) Since 1971, Lázár has also written a number of children’s plays and radio plays. Two anthologies of his stories for adults appeared in 1994 (My Seven Lovers) and 1997 (Little Angel) respectively. His latest book, The Golden Bird of Youth, contains the stories told by an illiterate Gypsy and adapted by the author. Ervin Lázár has been awarded a number of prizes for his works, among them the Andersen Prize and the Hungarian Kossuth Prize. Read more on the author

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