the ledge files
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Az utolsó ablakzsiráf
Péter Zilahy
publisher: Ab Ovo, Budapest, 1998

translated as:
The Last Window Giraffe
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 2008
translation: Tim Wilkinson

–› Excerpt

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Borderlines: The Work of Péter Zilahy

When we talk about 'poetry' in this context, we use the term in a broad sense that is both an angle and an intensity. It is a quality more than an object, or, to use Zilahy's words: 'a poet is someone who can look at the world every time as if for the first time'. The most characteristic element of Zilahy's poetry is that no two poems are the same, he uses no fixed forms and his viewpoint changes from one poem to the next. He belongs to no particular school, although he believes in the importance of tradition. His intention is to create new forms in every field, whether it be poetry, prose or visual arts. This points to a fundamental characteristic of his work - the blurring, or rather stretching, of the boundary between forms and mediums.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in his book The Last Window Giraffe, which, in the guise of a children's ABC, juxtaposes the author's coming of age in Communist Hungary with his firsthand experiences of the mass protests against the Milosevic regime in Belgrade in 1996. The work showcases key aspects of his approach. Interestingly, the writer Péter Esterházy noted that it reads 'as if it were written by a journalist with the pen of a poet'. It is a poli-mesmeric novel that resembles Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, as it works on multiple levels and has cyclically recurring themes. In the same way that Catch-22 is about the madness
of war, The Last Window Giraffe is about the madness of everyday life in a dictatorship. In its chameleon shifting of theme and time it explores the border of prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, history and private life. It also incorporates the author's own photography as a counterpoint to the text.

Photography is another of the author's interests, both in combination with his writing and standing alone. Zilahy's photos are highly narrative, like his poems, and they seem to unfold in time as you look at them. Even in the Belgrade pieces, which were taken using a small hidden camera and have a deliberate journalistic style to fit the text, the transparency of the image, which is obvious at first glance, gradually gives way to a realization that there are many layers which draw the viewer in deeper and deeper.

The fascination with creating new forms is also shown by the highly imaginative CD-Rom developed form this book, which utilizes interactive media to create new associations combining text, sound, photographs, animation and videos. It provides an alternative form, new media in literature. It has gained international acclaim and been called a masterpiece of digital poetry. To sum up, it may be best to quote the author again: 'Poetry has no borders because poetry is the border where things happen, the border of language, beauty and insanity, you and me.'

- Frank Prescott, Orient Express, 2003


The Trial
Franz Kafka, 1925P
'posthumous work'
The tale of Joseph K, a respectable functionary in a bank, who is suddenly arrested and must defend his innocence against a charge about which he can get no information. A nightmare vision of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the mad agendas of twentieth-century totalitarian regimes.


The Last Window Giraffe
–› Excerpt

A Hungarian history of the Eastern Bloc in the form of a ('Communist') children's picture dictionary.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez, 1967
This magical realist novel tells the history of the Buendías family, the founders of Macondo, a remote South American settlement. In the world of the novel there is a Spanish galleon beached in the jungle, a flying carpet, and an iguana in a woman's womb.

[Lepel alatt ugrásra kész szobor]
'Statue Under White Sheet, Ready to Jump'
Published in Stuttgart, Germany as Drei: Erzahlungen, Tagebucher, Gedichte, 'Three: Stories, Diaries, Poems'
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Code (above)

The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht,
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Design: Maurits de Bruijn

Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author.