The White King by György Dragomán (Translated by Paul Olchváry) - review by Peter Beech

Peter Beech

A Boy in Winter

The White King


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There are few better qualified to write about small-town paranoia behind the Iron Curtain than György Dragomán. After his Hungarian father was sacked from a job at Târgu Mureş University for ethnic bias, his entire family was ‘encouraged’ to leave Romania by the secret police in a campaign of abuse that lasted a decade. They spent their last three years in the country working the flea markets for sustenance while they waited for visas. But back in the early 80s, while Nicolae Ceauşescu was fiddling with the rations and tearing down Bucharest to make way for factories, Dragomán – a fan of James Fenimore Cooper – was 150 miles away attempting to live a normal boyhood with a home-made tomahawk and some feathered arrows.

His second novel, The White King (winner of the Sándor Márai Prize), takes place in an unnamed Eastern Bloc municipality and begins with an arrest. Eleven-year-old Djata watches as his father is hauled away ‘to a research station by the sea, on some urgent business’. What follows is a series

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