Zsófia Bán

Keep Breathing - Stories

Original Hungarian title: Lehet lélegezni!
(German title: Weiter atmen)
ca. 140 pages
Zsófia Bán
Foto: Zsófia Bán
© Ekko von Schwichow

Zsófia Bán, author, art and literary critic, has published several collections of essays. She was born in 1957 in Rio de Janeiro and grew up in Brazil and Hungary. She currently teaches American studies in Budapest. Esti iskola was awarded with the Attila József Prize in 2008. Amikor még csak az állatok éltek was awarded with the Tibor Déry Prize in 2012 and shortlisted for the International Literature Award – Haus der Kulturen der Welt 2014.

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»Images as incisive as blades.« Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


In 1912, Franz Reichelt stands on the Eiffel Tower clad in his home-made parachute, and hesitates, his breath billowing in the cold, »chemistry and scratch marks pulsate like thick snowfall« in the old black and white photograph.

Robika, who would be a seventh grader now if he had a concept of time and went to school, has an obsession: Every week he chooses seven bars of white soap in Mama Roza’s store.

One day, when the store is closed, Robika’s mother takes a bicycle into town with her inconsolable child. On the way back they get into an accident. Robika needs to have an x-ray, a bar of soap clasped tightly in each hand. But everything is fine, and he can: Keep breathing!

Whether she tells the story of a family of Syrian refugees stranded at the Hungarian border, of Rimbaud and those who do research on him, of lovers, patients or children, of Paris, Rio de Janeiro or Hungary – Zsófia Bán creates characters, images, internal landscapes of uncharted depth with few sentences.

New stories by Zsófia Bán – intelligent and empathetic, subtle and provocative, of associative imagination and laconic boldness.


»A wonderful volume of stories about leaving and arriving, about what is lost and regained, and about the breath of freedom.« Ilma Rakusa

»In her stories, Zsófia Bán doesn’t allow any literary cosiness to develop. She looks so closely and describes so precisely that it hurts. […] breath-taking, because [her] unconditionality goes all out in joining what has been separated.« Jörg Plath, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»Maybe the fact that these stories are so independent is due to the combination of the Hungarian narrative tradition and the physical experience of Brazil: realistic and surreal at once, dry, funny, warm, full of a delicate seunsuality that works like a perceptual filter.« Meike Fessmann, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»One gets stuck into these stories, one never finds an end on the barely two hundred pages and the fact that the author reaches out a hand to the reader to take it away again confidently is what constitutes the mastery of this collection.« Tilman Spreckelsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»In her stories, Zsófia Bán celebrates the fragility and insecurity of people. Her sentences climb into the most delicate branchlets of consciousness, where the view is fantastic and breathing gets easy.« Julia Kohli, Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag

»The selection in Keep Breathing seems both disparate and necessary at the same time. All effect emanates from the language. And only together is this selection complete and right.« Judith von Sternburg, Frankfurter Rundschau

»Following Zsófia Bán’s bold, piercing outlook onto the world will leave you feeling refreshed.« Literaturen

»Zsófia Bán‘s stories in Keep Breathing make opposites collide in a way that the realization of a previously hidden connection appears in a flash and takes one’s breath away.« Jörg Plath, Deutschlandfunk Kulur

»The texts of this volune form a kaleidoscopic panorama of never-told stories that always contain an inherent moment of terror. Each of the stories is subtly connected to segments of another, which makes the read, if one follows all the internal connections, potentially interminable.« Petra Nagenkögel, Die Presse

»Bán’s narrative universe is characterised by a great degree of unconventionality, of playfulness. It is the wilfulness of literature that speaks from every line […] Yes, let’s believe the unbelievable, let’s dive into this wild cosmos.« Andreas Withensohn, Wiener Zeitung

»With Keep Breathing, Hungarian author Zsófia Bán succeeds in presenting a volume of stories whose artistic play with uncertainty is downright breathtaking.« Werner Krause, Kleine Zeitung

Other publications

Abendschule/Night School (2012)

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English world rights (Open Letter), Spanish world rights (Siruela)