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Zoltán Danyi

The Carcass Remover - Novel

(Original title: A dögeltakarító, published in June 2015 by Magvető, Budapest)
(German title: Der Kadaverräumer)
ca. 251 pages
Clothbound
2018
Zoltán Danyi
Foto: Zoltán Danyi
© Tibor Weiner

Zoltán Danyi, born in 1972 in Senta, Yugoslavia, studied Philosophy and Literature in Novi Sad and Szeged. In 2003, he made his debut as a poet, publishing poems and short stories. He completed a PhD in 2008 on the Hungarian writer Béla Hamvas, and went on to work as an editor and schoolteacher. His first novel, The Carcass Remover, won the Miklós-Mészöly-Prize. Danyi, a member of the Hungarian minority in Serbia, now lives as a rose grower in Senta.

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»Even more than the story, what fascinated me was the hatred, the anger and the pain and how that fire can be transformed into sentences.«

About

They had heard about five dead foxes, lying in the road by the Hungarian-Serbian border. But when the men from the disposal unit arrive, there are dozens of carcasses, dogs and cats, too – shot, it seems, by border guards to pass the time. The war in the Balkans is long over, and yet incidents like these haul the narrator back into his past.

Sitting in the garden of a Berlin clinic where he is stuck until his terrible digestion issues are treated, he is overcome by the music of a Kusturica film and he starts to sob: »perhaps because it brought it all back to the surface, all he tried to run away from, those desolate years of hollowing-out, years that seemed without end, nor desirous of an end, and on they endured.«

Who is this narrator, who stumbles back and forth between the scenes of his life in a torrent of speech that threatens to sweep him away; part of a carcass-collecting unit that had once completed a rather different task? Is he a victim, a perpetrator? A survivor who is seeking a cure through speaking?

The war in Yugoslavia and its afterlife have never lessened their hold on Zoltán Danyi – for almost two decades he failed in his attempt to comprehend the monstrous reality that almost entirely devoured him. One day, the sound was there – a sound that makes for compelling reading. The writing shimmers like the surface of a contaminated body of water. Layer by layer it is laid bare. A book constructed like a complex musical composition whose beauty contains both distance and an intimate touch.

Praise

»Zoltán Danyi’s angry debut novel The Carcass Remover is a literary event beyond the borders of Hungary. … Danyi shines a merciless light on the sinister abysses that hide underneath every surface. One has to withstand this gaze. It belongs to a writer in a league of his own, but most importantly, it is one that, considering the disintegration of Europe, concerns all of us.« Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»The Carcass Remover is a perfect book of paradoxical beauty that deals with the ugly within us.« Süddeutsche Zeitung

»The great success of The Carcass Remover is not entirely down to its aesthetic quality, but also its shocking timeliness, the permanent contemporary nature of history, its continual return, the death of culture, of humanity, of the myth of Europe. The fact that here and now we are also living in wartime.« Orsolya Bencsik, Müut

»The beauty of the language with which a manic narrator wrestles his demons, chapter after chapter, is astonishing.« Literatur Spiegel