Market Day by Pál Závada
Translator: Owen Good
The Hungarian List
A novel exploring the descent of superficially decent people into vindictive killers.
What could bring people to form a mob and attack others? What circumstances could provoke a thirst for blood at the market square? Who will gang up to batter their neighbor, improbably returned from deportation? How can a person be swept up among lynchers?
Pál Závada’s novel examines and analyses the anti-Semitic mass hysteria and political opportunism surrounding the pogroms in Hungary that followed World War II and the Holocaust. In May 1946, at the village market, Mária Csóka witnessed a group of women set upon and beat to death a Jewish egg seller. The wife of a schoolteacher accused of anti-Semitic incitement, and daughter of a respected shopkeeper, Mária fears for her husband’s life yet cannot ignore the victims. The murderous fury spreads through the neighborhood like wildfire, dragging out women, children, and the elderly alike. Mária’s notes from the bloody day at the village market and from the subsequent trial in Budapest testify to a state of human relations that is intimately complex and irreparably scarred.
Year first published: 2023