Our Street, Sándor Tar’s fifth book, is comprised of thirty-one stories centered on the inhabitants of Crooked Street, the tail end of a small village in southern Hungary bounded at one end by a down-and-out bar where most of the characters find their consolation in alcohol, banter, sex, yearning for love, and recounting far-flung tales. Each story of Our Street reflects on and extends the next, whereby a gallery of memorable characters emerge to reveal even more, an incisive portrait of a society in disintegration.
Honing in on each character’s struggle to salvage their self-respect after the demise of communism and the 1989 regime change, Tar dramatizes the difficulties of survival as the people of Crooked Street face the loss of their jobs, the soil from under their feet, and their hopes.
This gallery of distinctive characters includes Uncle Vida, an old man who grows vegetables he cannot sell, the always proud Mancika, who is found lying on the tracks waiting for a speeding train, and the reverend Márton Végső, who tends to the needs of the villagers with an equanimity that springs from resignation rather than moral or spiritual resolve. Through these and other figures, one is drawn into a world both captivating and harrowing. Yet the stories are told with such humor, understanding, and sympathy that the book reaffirms the characters’ humanity and endows them with dignity. Our Street takes us into terrain that most would not have known were it not for Sándor Tar. As the first translation into English of one of Tar’s books, Anglophone readers will at last come to understand why many contemporary Hungarian authors have expressed unreserved admiration for his writing.