My rating: 4 stars
Set in the early 20th century, Journey by Moonlight by the Hungarian author Antal Szerb tells the story of a newlywed couple struggling to come to terms with their purpose in life. Were they supposed to conform to what society expected from them? Did they genuinely want to break away from the norm? Thirty-six-year-old Mihály, the main character, was finding it especially challenging to decide what to do, seeing that he was plagued by nostalgia for his youth.
Mihály and Erzsi went on a trip around Italy for their honeymoon. While in Venice, one night he decided to wander around the back-alleys alone. When he returned to the hotel, Erzsi was worried and asked him why he hadn’t told her where he was going and why he hadn’t taken her with him. He felt offended and resentful. But that was only the beginning of their disagreements. Erzsi, who had been married before to Zolfán Pataki, didn’t fully understand Mihály at first and was sure that he didn’t understand her neither, because he didn’t concern himself with the real feelings of others.
Their next destination was Ravenna. There they received an unexpected visit from János Szepetneki, one of Mihály’s old friends. During a cryptic conversation at the local piazza, he told Mihály that he had managed to trace Ervin’s whereabouts. This encounter encouraged Mihály to tell Erzsi about the deceased Tamás Ulpius. When he was young, Mihály suffered from various nervous symptoms. One of them was feeling and seeing a whirlpool on the ground near his feet. Once at Castle Hill in Budapest, Tamás helped him when the whirlpool effect was taking much longer to disappear than usual. Continue reading