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Current price: $19.95
Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
NYRB Classics
Chop Suey Books
1 on hand, as of Nov 26 5:11pm
On Our Shelves Now


A Dickensian coming-of-age tale about poverty, sex, World War I, and the darker side of human nature as seen through the eyes of a lobby boy in a Budapest hotel.

Temptation is a rediscovered masterwork of twentieth-century fiction, a Dickensian tale of a young man coming of age in Budapest between the wars. Illegitimate and unwanted, Béla is packed off to the country to be looked after by a peasant woman the moment he is born. She starves and bullies him, and keeps him out of school. He does his best to hold his own, and eventually his mother brings him back to live with her in the city. In thrall to his feckless father, Mishka, and living in a crowded tenement, she works her fingers to the bone, while Béla shares a room with a hardworking prostitute. Finally, Béla secures a job in a fancy hotel. Though exhausted by endless work, he is fascinated by the upper-crust world that his new job exposes him to; soon he is embroiled with a rich, damaged, and dangerous woman. The atmosphere of Budapest is increasingly poisoned by the appeal of fascism, while Béla grows ever more aware of how power and money keep down the working classes. In the end, with all the odds still against him, he musters the resolve to set sail for a new future.

About the Author

János Székely (1901–1958) was a novelist and screenwriter. At the age of eighteen, he fled World War I, leaving his native Hungary for Berlin, where he began writing screenplays. He emigrated to the United States in 1938, moving to Hollywood to work at the invitation of Ernst Lubitsch. Székely became a sought-after screenwriter and won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Story for Arise, My Love. He left the United States during the McCarthy era and eventually landed in East Berlin, where he lived until his death. 

Mark Baczoni was born in Budapest and grew up in London. He studied in Cambridge and Budapest, and translates both prose and poetry from Hungarian and French. He lives in London.

Praise for Temptation

"In this book, we do not smell the sultry perfume of the golden twenties. Here, the musty odor of moldy apartments, bad food, cheap alcohol, and unventilated toilets seeps out of the sides. But the book is not dull social criticism—the characters are too vital, the story too exciting. And Székely, the accomplished screenwriter, has arranged his scenes far too cleverly." —Joachim Kronsbein, Der Spiegel

"A truly great novel that brings everything together: narrative force, social history, wit, anger, grief, love and idealism." —Angela Wittmann, Brigitte