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'Midst the Wild Carpathians   By: (1825-1904)

'Midst the Wild Carpathians by Mór Jókai

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Authorised Version

LONDON: CHAPMAN AND HALL, LD. 1894 [All rights reserved]



Hungarians regard Az Érdély arány kora as, on the whole, the best of Jokai's great historical romances, and, to judge from the numerous existing versions of it, foreigners are of the same opinion as Hungarians. Few of Jokai's other tales have been translated so often, and the book is as great a favourite in Poland as it is in Germany. And certainly it fully deserves its great reputation, for it displays to the best advantage the author's three characteristic qualities his powers of description, especially of nature, his dramatic intensity, and his peculiar humour.

The scene of the story is laid among the virgin forests and inaccessible mountains of seventeenth century Transylvania, where a proud and valiant feudal nobility still maintained a precarious independence long after the parent state of Hungary had become a Turkish province. We are transported into a semi heroic, semi barbarous borderland between the Past and the Present, where Mediævalism has found a last retreat, and the civilizations of the East and West contend or coalesce. Bizarre, gorgeous, and picturesque forms flit before us rude feudal magnates and refined Machiavellian intriguers; superb Turkish pashas and ferocious Moorish bandits; noble, high minded ladies and tigrish odalisks; saturnine Hungarian heydukes, superstitious Wallachian peasants, savage Szeklers, and scarcely human Tartars. The plot too is in keeping with the vivid colouring and magnificent scenery of the story. The whole history of Transylvania, indeed, reads like a chapter from the Arabian Nights , but there are no more dramatic episodes in that history than those on which this novel is based the sudden elevation of a country squire (Michael Apafi) to the throne of Transylvania against his will by order of the Padishah, and the dark conspiracy whereby Denis Banfi, the last of the great Transylvanian magnates, was so foully done to death.

In none of Jokai's other novels, moreover, is the individuality of the characters so distinct and consistent. The gluttonous Kemeny, who sacrificed a kingdom for a dinner; the well meaning, easy going Apafi, who would have made a model squire, but was irretrievably ruined by a princely diadem; his consort, the wise and generous Anna, always at hand to stop her husband from committing follies, or to save him from their consequences; the crafty Teleki, the Richelieu of Transylvania, with wide views and lofty aims, but sticking at nothing to compass his ends; his rival Banfi, rough, masterful, recklessly selfish, yet a patriot at heart, with a vein of true nobility running through his coarser nature; his tender and sensitive wife, clinging desperately to a brutal husband, who learnt her worth too late; the time serving Csaky, as mean a rascal as ever truckled to the great or trampled on the fallen; Ali Pasha and Corsar Beg, excellent types of the official and the unofficial Turkish freebooter respectively; Kucsuk Pasha, the chivalrous Mussulman with a conscience above his creed; the renegade spy Zülfikar, groping in slippery places after illicit gains, and always falling on his feet with cat like agility; and, last of all, that marvellous creation, Azrael, the demoniacal Turkish odalisk, blasting all who fall within the influence of her irresistible glamour, a Circe as sinuously beautiful and as utterly soulless as her own pet panther all these personages of a, happily, by gone age are depicted as vividly as if the author had known each one of them personally.

Finally, the book contains some of Jokai's happiest descriptions, and in this department it is generally admitted that the master, at his best, is unsurpassable... Continue reading book >>

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