Sándor Szathmári underreviewed

The last time I reported on reviews of Voyage to Kazohinia was on July 26, Esperanto's 125th birthday.

Slightly more than a month later, I can only add one additional review, from a blog:

Voyage to Kazohinia, H. Deal Safrit, The Literary Outpost, August 28, 2012

The disappointing denouement of this review suggests the challenge ahead. The reviewer describes the outstanding features of the novel, but doesn't get it. Somehow the target of this satire alludes him. If he got it, he could still criticize it, even indicate why readers would not be sufficiently compelled by it, or why it might be considered dated,. but the reviewer loses his literary erection before consummating the literary experience. It's a symptom of the unwillingness to engage in critical thinking or anything that is not already familiar.

Other reviewers have found the elaboration of the Behins' irrational customs --which are a parody of European civilization--coded in Szathmári's profligate neologisms, excessive and thus eventually tedious. This I suppose is a matter of individual taste. One could criticize some of the concerns as dated, for example, the transposition of sexual taboos to food taboos, which would no longer be a novel satirical point for the contemporary reader. But two counterpoints here.

Once we consider the novel as an intervention at a particular point in history, and the repressive cultural and political circumstances of the time and place, we would gain a better understanding of the nature of Szathmári's intervention, and thus also of his putative limitations.

Secondly, the reviewer mentions an essential aspect of Behin society, that, even beyond our own irrational practices, words have lost all stable referents to reality among the Behins. This is not a trivial accomplishment of the satire. Contrapose it to the other extreme: of the strictly referential use of language among the Hins and the absence of poetry, symbolism, culture, and subjectivity. Herein lies an opposition whose implications still bear exegesis today.

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