Call for Chaos (New York Review of Books, Neal Ascherson, 03. 09. 1978)


Call for Chaos
By Neal Ascherson
The City Builder

by George Konrád, translated by Ivan Sanders
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 184 pp., $7.95
This is George Konrád's second novel to appear in English. The first, The Case Worker, astonished and stirred critics in the West who saw in Konrád not only a new talent in fiction but a new development in the postwar literature of Eastern Europe. Here was something highly ironic. The regimes, at first with threats and bribes but later on with resentful speeches at the congresses of writers' unions, had always demanded 'positive literature,' engaged with social problems. Most of the social-realist writing had proved poor: the best work was written in opposition and was individualistic, subjective, treating contemporary societies either not at all or from an essentially political point of view. Konrád seemed to have gone a step further. He wrote about society seen through the eye of a social worker—an eye not only imaginative but trained and analytic. At the same time, his criticism of that society and its ruling bureaucracy was merciless. His own originality, and the relative tolerance of the Hungarian literary gendarmerie, had allowed him to combine political opposition and a modern, science-based social awareness.