The Most Beautiful Night of the Soul: Stories by Sándor Jászberényi, Translated by Paul Olchvary
Published by: Speaking Tiger
Fiction: Short Stories, Translation
Rating: 4/5 stars
Set mostly in contemporary Cairo and Iraq, as well as Israel, London, and Hungary, these twelve short stories are a staggering follow-up to those in the acclaimed collection The Devil Is a Black Dog by leading Hungarian writer/photojournalist Sándor Jászberényi. Told from the perspective of Cairo-based European war correspondent Daniel Marosh, The Most Beautiful Night of the Soul is, above all, about a journalist examining some of today’s most pressing Middle East conflicts and the lives of others even while forced to question his own assumptions and haunted by his own demons.
A unique, insider’s view of the days, and disquieting nights, of one Middle East war correspondent who seeks the truth even while battling his own demons.
Resonates with the work of Tim O’Brien, Kevin Powers, Ernest Hemingway, and Graham Greene–when journalism and an insider’s view becomes literature in capital letters The author’s own personal story⎯his unresolved relationships with his own father and with the mother of his child⎯provides a compelling emotional backdrop. Spare, gritty, Hemingwayesque prose.
About the author:
Sándor Jászberényi is the author of the critically acclaimed short story collection, The Devil Is a Black Dog has worked as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East and Africa for leading Hungarian newspapers. He has covered the revolutions in Egypt and Libya, the Gaza War, the Darfur crisis, and the conflict with Islamic State—interviewing armed Islamic groups in the process—and has also reported on the war in Ukraine. His stories and reportage have been published in Geurnica, Wall Street Journal, New York Times etc.
*Thank you Speaking Tiger for the review copy. All opinions are my own.
The Most Beautiful Night of the Soul: Stories, a collection of 12 short stories by Sándor Jászberényi, a journalist is a must read for the only reason that they are contemporary and timeless. The stories are contemporary in the way they are structured around the fictional Cairo based journalist Daniel Marosh covering various modern armed conflicts and their spillovers like the Palestinian-Jewish strikes, or tackling the ISIS, opium addiction, Post Trauma Stress Disorder etc. Each story is timeless for they hinge around morality in the times of violence and the various players, about human ties, the lows that a human being can subject oneself to.
The first eleven short stories read together like a novel with each story threading into one another like chapters do in a novel while the last one stays on its own. The 12 short stories are marked by the flavour of intrigue, an unknown dread in the air and the chaos brought upon by constant violence that happens off the pages. In this collection, you get stories about the trappings of journalists covering war: being at the sidelines but seeing everything directly: the violence, the loss of colleagues, trying to step in as a peacemaker and then realising just how off the mark one can be, the commodification of women and children.
The shadow of death, despair and emotional pain falls on the stories but they don’t leave you despondent. Rather, you will get involved in the scheme of things and try grasping for straws wondering where the story will take the characters from the grime of wars untold. The stories paint an overall picture of how things are often made of chaos and the blur between good, bad and evil. Even as the character of the journalist is thrown into the most violent and politically laced conflicts, there is the humane side into how he responds to people and situation around him that makes the stories stand out. His character finds himself in the worst of situations and amongst the deepest darkest hours but there is also a slim hope, a slim chance at redemption that will keep readers hooked.