Here is an all-too-accurate picture of adolescence, evocatively drawn and often with a dark wit, but in an unusual situation, the conditions being those of ‘really existing socialism’ in a 1960s grammar school in Budapest. The narrator and protagonist, Robi Singer, is now a respected art historian in Vienna. But then he was a schoolboy and an enthusiastic young Communist. The school has been given the privilege of starting a youth club – the Gagarin Club – which will soon have its launch night. He is also in love with a girl in the form below him, Ilona Fenyvesi, the daughter of a surgeon. The first kiss has been postponed but Ilona tells him yes, now, tonight, it can take place. They slip off to an empty classroom, the lights go out, and when they come on again coats and jackets have disappeared. Suspicion falls on Robi, but how can he exculpate himself without compromising Ilona? Years later a disreputablelooking man, who was once a brilliant mathematician and a pupil at the same school, accosts him and thanks him for not having informed on him. But Robi has lost his girl long since. Ah, not so happy days! Be warned: once tasted, the appetite for Dalos grows.
NB Readers may also enjoy exploring Dalos’s depiction of the meeting between Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin, Der Gast aus der Zukunft, and his short history of Hungary, Ungarn in der Nußschale.