Szathmári’s Voyage to Kazohinia was finally reprinted in English last year, concluding a personal voyage to get hold of it once again.
There are books one wants to keep around, like trusted friends, to be consulted at will for insightful perspectives on questions that might come up, to remind one of what is most important while navigating daily obstacles, and even to become bricks in a wall of encouragement — a mere glance at which will call forth satisfying memories and directions for the way forward. Many years ago, an acquaintance (a speaker of Sándor Szathmári’s native Hungarian) lent me the English translation of that author’s Voyage to Kazohinia. I was deeply affected by it for various reasons and felt deprived when I was obligated to return that copy to its owner fairly quickly. Thus began a decades-long quest to add this volume to the dystopian section of my cherished collection, to keep company with Huxley, Orwell, Zamyatin, et al.
Kazohinia resurfaces and is published again
Anyone whom I knew to be going to or coming from Hungary was recruited in my search; secondhand bookstores were scoured, libraries haunted for a trace of Kazohinia — but it was a great deal to hope for in a country where even the original version was nearly impossible to locate, let alone the English translation. With the dawn of the Internet, a different type of searching became practicable, for years turning up a few straws at which to grasp: mentions of the title, information about the translator, and an ambitious website offering the entire text as a stopgap that was welcome but managed to increase the cravings for the book form even more.
For years and years I entered Kazohinia as a search term in various locutions. One fine day I found the exact item I coveted for sale by a French bookseller — a triumph and a glorious dénouement (it was a thrill to receive and begin re-reading) but not quite the end. As I had become so accustomed to searching, I continued to look now and then, wondering if such a meaningful contribution to dystopian writings would ever become more widely available. How startling one of those times, then, to discover suddenly that I could “pre-order” Voyage to Kazohinia some months before its publication in the spring of 2012! Order I did, rejoicing that this remarkable work would finally be claiming its rightful place in world literature.