Under the Frog: A Novel
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Under the Frog follows the adventures of two young Hungarian basketball players through the turbulent years between the end of World War II and the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. In this spirited indictment of totalitarianism, the two improbable heroes, Pataki and Gyuri, travel the length and breadth of Hungary in an epic quest for food, lodging, and female companionship.
What people are saying - Write a review
Described as a serio-comic view of the events in Hungary between 1944 & 1956 (3 years before the author was born) the book relies heavily on research and it must be presumed that the events are, partially, true.
Personally, I found the humour a bit heavy-handed and the inclusion of Two camel jokes, one following the other (P57/58) showed immaturity. On page 67, once again, he uses repetition to no useful purpose "...Does it help being the clever pig on the way to the abattoir?" followed three lines later with "...If you're falling off a cliff, the quality of the brains going to get dashed doesn't hugely count."
Given the time sequence and the chapter headings, it is probably inevitable that the book becomes episodic; but that is no reason for it to become boring. It is as though the author felt that he had to include every piece of information, relevant or not, related to him during his research, no matter how trivial. (Perhaps he was trying to avoid giving offense?)
Fischer was born in Stockport (England) in 1959, of Hungarian parents, yet his language is archaic and some of his constructions are absurd ...Quote "...Keeping his legs moving in a desperate attempt to festinate digestion and eschew puking, to grind down the anvil in his stomach..."
OR. "It was bruited by her changing room companions that she had no pubic hair..."
OR. "...the booze having severed their relations with the known universe..."
Fischer introduces new characters, by name, at regular intervals without giving any reason for their inclusion. The names are uniformly difficult to read, let alone remember, leading to huge confusion. Many of them get but one mention. Again, one wonders if their exclusion would give offense to some well-meaning contributor?
He opens a long paragraph about his wooing of Jadwiga with the memorable line...Quote. "...on orders of his ball-gripping lust, Gyuri kept looking out of the window...Jadwiga rose to go to the bathroom, and Gyuri perceived a fructitious droplet dash along her thigh towards her ankle..."
Was she incontinent? Or was it a by-product of his ball-gripping lust.
Or do we care?
Alas, we will probably never know and, perhaps, we should be grateful?
This is pretentious stuff. No wonder it appealed to Salman Rushdie - all those unpronounceable names - he should translate it into curry and maybe the Ghost of Cardinal Mindszenty would utter a Hungarian fatwa from his grave in Thokoly ut, beside Dozsa Gyorgy ut and tell Tibor to eviscerate hid badinage severly (p 123).
I finally gave up and wonder how this bilge was short-listed for the Booker.
Dame Stella Rimington, chairing the Booker judges, upset the Sisters by suggesting that Booker short-listed stories should entertain the reader.
Happily, in 2009, Wolf Hall, a true masterpiece of writing, by Hilary Mantle, confirmed Dame Stella's opinion.
Perhaps some charitable organisation might offer an alternative prize for obscure tales, from far-distant lands; their place names; recipes; family customs and methods of preparation of food - and let the Booker be confined to mainline fiction, in clear, easily-understood English.
Just a personal opinion.
Review: Under the FrogUser Review - Leonard - Goodreads
Not quite as much fun as "The Thought Gang", but Tibor Fischer's debut novel is still a good read and a good fictional portrayal of the Czech uprising of '68. Read full review