György Konrád Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Konrád, György 1933–

Konrád is a Hungarian novelist and social worker. The Case Worker is his best known translated work, gaining its power, according to Irving Howe, "from Konrád's gift for the vignette, the suddenly snapped picture, as if taken from a slightly overfocused camera." (See also CLC, Vol. 4.)

Neal Ascherson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Case Worker, a first novel by the young Hungarian writer George Konrád, has been widely praised in the West…. The Case Worker is horrific, and Konrád possesses both the power to see and the power to describe what he sees. But there is much to make reservations about: his violent, remorseless battering of the feelings causes monotony, his rhetorical seizures which spatter the reader with a hundred hot adjectives in a few sentences are, it seems to me, the easy but wrong way to the effect he wants….

What is memorable about the book is neither its narrative structure nor its tirades: Konrád's real achievement is, in fact, his evoking of a "case," the brilliant, economical creation of a character in a trap. He is a very talented writer, but The Case Worker is the sort of abreacting, subjective novel which does not yet prove him a gifted novelist and which, by its nature, can't be repeated in variation or developed upon. Konrád's next work will probably tell us more.

Neal Ascherson, in The New York Review of Books (reprinted with permission from The New York Review of Books; © 1974 by NYREV, Inc.), August 8, 1974, p. 16.

Ivan Sanders

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

With the skill of a social scientist, the compassion of a humanist, and the stylistic pyrotechnics of the avant-garde, Konrád [in The City Builder] outlines the political, social and economic history of an unnamed East European city….

Much of The City Builder reads like an extended essay, although it is profoundly literary. Its ideas arrive in language of extraordinary power and plasticity. Moreover, by constantly condensing and telescoping events, Konrád manages to pack a number of potential novels into his text. Alfred Kazin has said that novels cannot be written anymore, only scenarios. Eastern European novelists and film makers are particularly adept at schematic, elliptical modes of composition. Konrád merely hints at the specifics of time and place, yet each hint is crucial, for it evokes a state of mind and a way of life. The true protagonist of the novel is the city, whose main square, with its impressive public buildings and statuary, is a memorial to mock heroism and real suffering. The narrator finds his city at once cozy and confining, irreplaceable and detestable—"an Eastern European showcase of devastation and regeneration" that "can welcome its enemies with salt and bread and, having taken crash courses in the art of survival, change its greeting signs, statues, scapegoats—its history."

In his much-praised first novel, The Case Worker, Konrád already proved his stylistic...

(The entire section is 407 words.)

Jascha Kessler

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

George Konrád's first book, "The Case Worker," was a fictive essay built with blocks of grotesque realism: the daily horrors of the lives of the poor and helpless, the deficient, abandoned, crazed and rejected…. Its thesis was that our urban culture grows more vacant of humane values in proportion to our power to process masses of people through a machinery designed to give them well-being….

Still, "The Case Worker" accepts love, is drenched in compassion as it offers a traditional humanist solution of the problem of human imperfection. Konrád sees that it is just the problem—the intolerable evil inherent in our defective human condition—that spurs the revolutionist, and infuriates the...

(The entire section is 525 words.)

Susan Lardner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"The City Builder" is written as an interior monologue delivered by a city planner—a Socialist bureaucrat who lives and works in an "East-Central European city."…

The namelessness of speaker and city—besides possibly indicating a diminished individuality owing to East-Central European political circumstances—emphasizes the general pertinence of Konrád's theme, which is the bitter disappointments of middle age. East European Socialist middle age, true; but readers of diverse persuasions will recognize, if they don't also share, the planner's close attention to his aging body, his feeling of private and professional failure, his absorption in thoughts of death and of the sexual joys of the...

(The entire section is 449 words.)