Thursday, 23 November 2006

The Pendragon Legend

IF YOU happen to pass a bookshop while these words are still in your head, you won't go far wrong by walking in and buying a copy of The Pendragon Legend by Antal Szerb, translated by Len Rix and published by Pushkin Press, ISBN 1-901285-60-X.

This wonderful little book, written and first published in Hungarian in 1934, is a gently satirical mix of genres; being a gothic, romantic, metaphysical, country house murder mystery psychological thriller - a sort of Gosford Park meets The Da Vinci Code meets The Name of Rose meets The Devil Rides Out.

Set largely in North Wales - which is why I'm drawning your attention to it - the story concerns a young Hungarian scholar-dilettante who is introduced to the Earl of Gwynedd, a reclusive eccentric and the subject of strange rumours. Invited to stay at the Earl's family seat, Pendragon Castle, the young man receives a mysterious phone call warning him not to go....

The author exhibits a wonderfully sharp intelligence, probing moral, psychological and religious questions without ever reducing the rapid pace of the narrative.

It's particularly sad to know that, having published only two novels, Szerb was beaten to death in a labour camp in 1945. His second novel, Journey By Moonlight, written in 1937 and now also translated by Len Rix and published by Pushkin Press, ISBN 0-901285-50-2, is even better than The Pendragon Legend. Give the first book a go and I defy you not to buy the second.

Click here to buy the book from Amazon

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