Translated by George Szirtes

9781846590344 May 2008 Paperback 256pp

About the Book

On his way to a linguists’ conference in Helsinki, Budai finds himself in a strange city where he can’t understand a word anyone says.

One claustrophobic day blurs into another as he desperately struggles to survive in this vastly overpopulated metropolis where there are as many languages as there are people. Fearing that his wife will have given him up for dead, he finds comfort in a unconventional relationship with the elevator-operator in the hotel.

A suspenseful and haunting Hungarian classic, and a vision of hell unlike any other imagined.

About the Author

Ferenc Karinthy was born in Budapest in 1921. He obtained a PhD in linguistics and went on to be a translator and editor, as well as an award-winning novelist, playwright, journalist and water polo champion. He is the author of over a dozen novels. Metropole (Telegram) is the first to be translated into English.

About the Translator

George Szirtes is an award-winning poet, translator and editor. He was born in Budapest and came to England as a refugee in 1956. His recent poetry collection, Reel, won the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2005. He has translated over ten works of Hungarian poetry, fiction and drama into English.


‘I don’t know when I’ve read a more perfect novel ... a dynamically helpless hero (in the line of Kafka), and a gorgeous spiral of action, nothing spare, nothing wrong, inventive and without artifice.’
Michael Hoffman, TLS

‘With time, Metropole will find its due place in the twentieth-century library, on the same shelf as The Trial and 1984.’
G. O. Chateaureynaud

‘A Central european classic to be discovered and relished.’
Eva Hoffman

‘Reading Ferenc Karinthy’s Metropole is like being lost in someone else’s nightmare ... A classic to be read’
Three Percent

‘A labyrinthine tale of abandonment ... It is a tremendously visual book in the power of the images it creates.’
A Common Reader

‘Nightmare is the only word that fully captures Karinthy’s hellish metropolis, but while it’s definitely a tale of horror, Metropole is also funny and touching.’