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In the tranquil garden of the Monastery Hotel in Buda, shaded from the day’s intense summer heat and enticing guests with Transylvanian sparkling wine, a relaxed ceremony premiered two translated works by the prolific Hungarian writer and politician, Miklós Bánffy.
Editor of the newly launched series of writings about the region, Blue Danube, Annabel Barber duly introduced Thomas Sneddon, responsible for these initial translations. They had first met at the Transylvanian Book Festival in 2018.
“When asking most people how they learned
Hungarian,” she prefaced, “you hear about ‘my family was Hungarian’ or ‘I had a
Hungarian girlfriend.’ But Thomas replied, ‘I translated the works of Miklós
Bánffy for fun!’”
It was the start of a partnership between the two which has resulted in the English-language publications of The Remarkable Mrs Anderson and The Monkey and other stories, available through Somerset Books, a sister imprint of Budapest-based travel publishers Blue Guides.
The Remarkable Mrs Anderson is the compelling
fast-paced crime story of the theft of a priceless Leonardo da Vinci painting
from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. As the police time and again show
themselves to be bumbling fools, the gifted reporter Milla Anderson picks up
the trail, taking us through an international adventure rife with drama, danger,
comedy and a dash of light-hearted romance.
The short stories contained within The Monkey and other stories range from the perspectives of a Romanian villager meditating revenge to the careless comforts of Venice, drawing on the author’s experiences of “life, love, sacrifice, betrayal and courage”.
Miklós Bánffy is a name barely known outside the
Carpathian Basin, and scarcely remembered within, despite an extensive number
of publications printed in his lifetime. A Transylvanian-born nobleman, Bánffy served
as a member of Parliament and as Director of the Hungarian State Theatres,
later becoming the Foreign Minister of Hungary in 1921.
His political career was one which ended in significant strife: in vain, Bánffy attempted to convince Hungary and Romania to abandon the Axis powers, for which the Germans burned and looted his estate at Bonchida two years later, and a ban was eventually placed on his literary works by the incoming Communist régime. Separated from his family, he was only permitted a passport in 1949 when he was already ill, and he died in 1950.
The new translations are the product of the talented Thomas Sneddon, who hails from County Down in Northern Ireland, and now lives in Hungary teaching translation at the Pázmány Péter Catholic University. He is currently finalising a translation of Transylvanian Trilogy, Bánffy’s most famous work.