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NLE 2013: In Transit

This year György Dragomán will represent Hungary and contemporary Hungarian literature at the New Literature from Europe Festival. György Dragomán (b. 1973), whose name evokes the dragomans or translators of the Ottoman Empire and the broader Middle East, is himself no stranger to crossing borders and bridging divides. 

The Hungarian novelist, author of short stories and translator made a name for himself with his evocative, yet precise prose colored by his childhood experiences in totalitarian Romania where he was born as a member of the Hungarian minority in Targu Mures. His family in 1988 and settled in Hungary where he completed high school and went on to gain degrees in English and Philosophy. His novels and stories, however, frequently hark back to moods and situations preserved in his memory, and while Dragomán describes his work as not autobiographical, he acknowledges the key role of his experience in his fashioning of the dark, brooding literary universe in which his tales are set.
His first novel, A pusztításkönyve [Genesis Undone] was published in 2002 to critical acclaim, earning him the Bródy Prize, awarded annually to the author of the most important breakthrough prose contribution. His second novel, The White King (A fehérkirály) brought international recognition and a score of awards both domestic and foreign. It also had the added bonus of speaking to audiences everywhere in the world, and was published in well over a dozen countries, including the US. Following the international editions of The White King, Dragomán quickly shot to literary fame, culminating—after over half a dozen awards and fellowships—in receiving the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature which ranks as the most significant Swiss literary acknowledgement for foreign authors. György Dragomán is currently engaged in finishing his third novel.
The White King (Mifflin Harcourt, 2008, 176 pages)
Translated from: A fehér király (Magvető, 2005)

Synopsis: An international sensation, this startling and heartbreaking debut introduces us to the precocious eleven-year-old Djata, whose life in the totalitarian state he calls home is about to change forever. Djata doesn't know what to make of the two men who lead his father away one day, nor does he understand why his mother bursts into tears when he brings her tulips on her wedding anniversary. He does know that he must learn to fill his father's shoes, even though among his friends he is still a boy: fighting with neighborhood bullies, playing soccer on radioactive grass, having inappropriate crushes, sneaking into secret screening rooms, and shooting at stray cats with his gun-happy grandfather. But the random brutality of Djata's world is tempered by the hilarious absurdity of the situations he finds himself in, by his enduring faith in his father's return, and by moments of unexpected beauty, hope, and kindness. Structured as a series of interconnected stories propelled by the energy of Dragomán's riveting prose, the chapters of The White King collectively illuminate the joys and humiliations of growing up, while painting a multifaceted and unforgettable portrait of life in an oppressive state and its human cost. And as in the works of Mark Haddon, David Mitchell, and Marjane Satrapi, Djata's child's-eye view lends power and immediacy to his story, making us laugh and ache in recognition and reminding us all of our shared humanity.
Translator: Paul Olchváry has translated numerous novels from Hungarian, including Gyorgy Dragoman's The White King (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), Ferenc Barnas's The Ninth (Northwestern, 2009), Kondor Vilmos's Budapest Noir (Harper Collins, 2011), and Karoly Pap's Azarel (Steerforth, 2001). He has been honored with grants or awards by the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN Translation Fund, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The owner and publisher of New Europe Books, he was raised in a Hungarian family in Buffalo, New Yoek, lived for many years in Hungary, and lives currently in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
The festival will run from Thursday, November 14 through Saturday, November 16, 2013.

Schedule of events

Thursday, November 14

Location | Engelman Recital Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, Baruch College Vertical Campus, 55 Lexington Avenue @25th, NYC

6:00 pmWriters Omi Translation Lab

EVENT | These translator- writer pairs – working on fiction written in Hebrew, German, Japanese and Hungarian — were awarded this year’s prestigious 10-day Translation Lab residency at Writers Omi. On the last evening of the residency, they discuss their intensive collaborative work, the translation process they’ve developed, and how literature is disseminated across languages and cultures.
Atar Hadari (T) & Iris Leal (W)
Atar Hadari trained as an actor and writer at the University of East Anglia. His plays have won awards from the BBC, Arts Council of England, National Foundation of Jewish Culture (New York), European Association of Jewish Culture (Brussels) and the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was Young Writer in Residence.
Iris Leal was born at Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov, Israel, in 1959, and grew up in her grandparents` ultra-Orthodox home. She later moved to Paris and studied social work and cinema in London. She now teaches creative writing at the Camera Obscura School of Art in Tel Aviv. Leal has been awarded the Prime Minister`s Prize (1994) and the Bernstein Prize for Literary Criticism (1995).
Tim Mohr (T) and Stefanie de Velasco (W)
Tim Mohr ‘s translation of the German novel Guantanamo, by Dorothea Dieckman, won the 2007 Three Percent Award for Best Translated Book. His collaboration with original Guns N’Roses bassist Duff McKagan on his memoir, It’s So Easy (and Other Lies), was selected as a Best Book of 2011 by the Los Angeles Public Library.

Stefanie de Velasco was born in 1978 and studied European Ethnology and Political Sciences in Bonn, Berlin and Warsaw. In 2011 she received the Literature Prize Prenzlauer Berg for the first chapters of her debut. She lives and works in Berlin.

Takami Nieda  (T) and Nao-Cola Yamazaki (W)
Born in New York, Takami Nieda has translated Japanese titles for English-language publication, including Hideyuki Kikuchi's Dark Wars: The Tale of Meiji Dracula, Koji Suzuki's Promenade of the Gods, M's Death Note: L, Change the World, and Hayao Miyazaki's The Art of Ponyo.
Nao-Cola Yamazaki’s 2004 debut novel Don’t Laugh at My Romance received the 41st Bungei Award, was nominated for the Akutagwa Award, and became a very successful film. She lectures on Japanese literature at Kukogakuin University in Tokyo.

Paul Olchváry (T) and György Dragomán (W)
Paul Olchváry has translated more than ten books from Hungarian, including György Dragomán's novel The White King (Houghton Mifflin) and Károly Pap's novel Azarel (Steerforth). He has received translation awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, PEN America, and Hungary's Milán Füst Foundation.
György Dragomán is a Hungarian author and literary translator, born in Transylvania, Romania in 1973; his family moved to Hungary in 1988. His best-known work, The White King (2005) has been translated into 28 languages.[1]
This event is made possible by Writers Omi,, and the Baruch College Globus Lecture Series.

Location | Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St., NYC

6:30pm | Literature In Transit


EVENT | New Literature from Europe authors Sabine Gruber (Austria), Maria Dueñas (Spain), Witold Szabłowski (Poland), and Daniela Zeca-Buzura (Romania) read from their work and converse about their writing, which crosses and re-crosses international borders and deals with current and historical events in both fiction and literary non-fiction. Moderated by Michael F. Moore.

Followed by cocktail

November 15

Location | Melville House, 154 
Plymouth St. Brooklyn, NY

6:30pm | Cab Chats
EVENT | Hop in a cab with one of the NLE 2013 visiting authors! This mobile event will take spectators on five-minute round trips in groups of three. Authors will read a short excerpt from their book in the original language and briefly chat with the passengers. This event will culminate in a cocktail party, where participants and authors will have a chance to socialize.

7:30 - 9:00 pm | Cocktail

Saturday, November 16

Location |
S. A. Schwarzman Bldg,
S. Court Auditorium , 42nd St. & Fifth Ave., NYC

2:30-3:45 pm | Panel 1: Writing under Surveillance

                       Readings with Laurent Binet, Jáchym Topol, Ilija Trojanow

                       Joined in discussion by Sabina Gruber and Maria Dueñas.

                       Moderated by Michael F. Moore
EVENT | News of the NSA’s secret surveillance activities in Europe has cast a chill over political relations and damaged the Western claim to representing the “free world.” How do the latest revelations impact European writers and their expectations of privacy and creative freedom?

3:45-4:45pm | Panel 2: The Sins of the Fathers

                      Readings with Erri De Luca, György Dragomán

                      Joined in discussion by Witold Szablowski and Daniela Zeca-Buzura.


                      Moderated by Michael F. Moore.

EVENT | The legacy of the Second World War and the many civil wars that it overshadowed continues to weigh on political and cultural life in Europe today. The writers on this panel engage in varying ways with the intersection between story and history, and test the boundaries of the historical novel as a genre.

Balassi Institute - Hungarian Cultural Center collaborates with numerous European Cultural Institutes, all members of the EUNIC Claster in New York. For more information on other writers and participants please visit


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