Turkish Mirror

Viktor Horváth
Novel (Jelenkor), 2009, 560 pages

“You can have no idea, my heir to the true faith, what this prosperous city was like when I was a boy, so listen, for I am now going to tell you.”


RIGHTS SOLD TO: Turkish (Dogan Egmont), Macedonian (Goten), Croatian (Naklada Ljevak), Bulgarian (Ergo), Czech (Vetrne Mlyny), Polish (Jagiellonian Univ. Press), Serbian (Dereta)

Turkish Mirror takes the reader on an adventurous journey back in time to 16th century Hungary, when the country was still a new suzerainty of the victorious Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, an unstable borderland situated between two great empires, a colorful cavalcade of calendars, taxation systems, languages, writings and sacred writings; kings and emperors, mighty sultans, Hungarian nobles and Ottoman Beys, merchants, city burghers, village magistrates – and from time to time, even angels and djinns and peculiar flying machines.

In the novel we see the city of Pécs gradually giving way to the world of the Thousand and One Arabian Nights where camels walk the streets, apricots and dates hang from the trees in abundance, thieves roam the woods, and the first mosque and Turkish bath are built. Indeed, the great charm of Turkish Mirror lies in its uninhibited flair for story telling, while its ingenuity lies in showing us the world of Hungary through the eyes of the occupying Ottoman Turks, which is thus presented as a complex, puzzling multinational land froth with danger and ruled by complex power relations as opposed to the Padishah’s civilized and refined empire. Thanks to this surprising point of view, the reader suddenly finds himself on a terrain where everything that was familiar is now foreign and exotic.

Judith Sollosy




„To teach and to entertain. The author bends the parameters of his book according to this double cause, which is obvious from the title too. The Turkish Mirror on one hand evokes the traditional, didactic genre of aristocratic biographies (»mirrors«) of the time, but at the same time reflects on the fresh aspect from which the story is told: the well-known historical times are presented here from the other side, as seen in a »turkish mirror«, being the same, yet utterly different. Because in this mirror, the »last bastion of the cultured world« is the meeting point of the Danube and the Sava rivers at Belgrade, after which begins the realm of »degenerate men« – that is to say, the faithless Hungarians.”
Sándor Bazsányi, Élet és Irodalom

„We see here an army of characters, each trying to get through life with cunning, lies, aggression and corruption – they are all frail and mortal from the graceful Padishah to the last slave-girl, like in the machinery of a turkish-style mystery play. The main point of the novel is not the human being in itself, but the place: Pécs, the turkish stronghold, where Isa is drawn by chance (by the will of Allah through the Padishah), and where every important thing in his life – love, war, enlightment – has to happen. We are at home in Pécs, and that is why we can call this blood-stained chronic a »friendly read«. For the author, Pécs is the place of multiculturalism, a notion often evoked in a shallow and deprecating manner. People of the same faith but of different nations, people of the same language but coming from different parts of the world, people of different fates are struggling to survive in the same earthly confinement, where even the solitude of the rogue princes is an illusion, according to the laws of fate. And still, says the author, the Place is there so that we can find the indispensable past in it, a past we can always remold to our own fashion.”
József Tamás Reményi, Népszabadság

„The main feature of Turkish Mirror is it’s laid-back and unstoppable way of storytelling, and because of this it can easily be read as the series of adventures by the young Isa; however, the real virtues of the book lie not in the events, but in the world the author has created and in which the events are happening. We are alking about the turkish suzeranity of the 16th century, the sanjak of Pécs to be more precise. The novel’s great invention is that it draws up it’s world from the point of view of the faithful invaders. Hungary, with it’s many nations and complex political landscape is a chaotic, dangerous and unruly territory compared to the civilized and sophisticated empire of the Padishah. And with this turn of the point of view, the reader also finds him- or herself in an unpredictable realm: everything that seemed to be familiar, suddenly becomes alien and exotic.”
József Keresztesi, Revizor Online




Viktor Horváth was born in 1962 in Pécs. He was a potter, teacher, and babysitter, then between 2003 and 2006 he studied for his Ph.D. at the University of Miskolc. Since 2003 he has been teaching the theory of poetic structure and the history of form in medieval and late-medieval times at the University of Pécs. He is a translator from English, German, and Spanish. His guidebook, Over There, or New York Variations (Át avagy New York-variációk) appeared in 2004. More on the author

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