Vilmos Kondor

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Kondor Vilmos.jpg

Vilmos Kondor (born 1954) is the name (possibly pseudonym) of a successful Hungarian author. His five crime novels, known as the Budapest Noir series, depict the adventures of a journalist, Zsigmond Gordon, in Budapest from the 1930s to the 1950s. They have become very popular in Hungary.


Personal life[edit]

Kondor attended university in Szeged, then continued his studies in Paris. He graduated in chemical engineering from the Sorbonne, then returned to Hungary. Currently he teaches mathematics and physics at a high school. He lives with his wife, daughters and dog in a small village near Sopron. He leads a quiet life and, if he gives interviews at all, he does so only by email.

Professional life[edit]

Kondor worked for three years on his first published novel, Budapest Noir. It was his fourth finished manuscript. Kondor finished the Budapest Noir series with the fifth novel, Budapest novemberben (Budapest in November), published in June 2012.

As influences, Kondor has mentioned Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford and Dashiell Hammett, and he based one of his characters, Vörös Margó (Red Margot) on the character Dinah Brand in Hammett's novel Red Harvest.


Budapest Noir[edit]

A Jewish girl is found dead in Budapest in 1936, and, Zsigmond Gordon, a determined crime reporter, sets out to solve a murder that everyone else in his soon-to-be Fascist country wants to leave buried.

Budapest Noir received a warm reception in Hungary, and many reviewers hailed it as the first true hardboiled crime story written in Hungarian. One critic. Péter I. Rácz, welcomed Kondor as the author of the first Hungarian crime thriller.[1]

"The search [for a Hungarian crime thriller] is at an end: Vilmos Kondor’s novel is a Hungarian crime thriller and then some, one of the harder variety, in the spirit of Chandler and Hammett, but with Hungarian characters and set in the Hungarian capital in the period before World War II. ... Kondor’s literary experiment has been a great success: the Hungarian hard-boiled crime thriller has been born, and, far predating its own period, it leads its readers – with an effect that 'carries into the present' – to the literary realm of the 1930s." ÉS.

The rights for a film adaptation of Budapest Noir were sold before the book was published. Shooting of the film was set for early 2013.

Translations of Budapest Noir have been published by Edizioni e/o in Italy, Payot et Rivages in France, Proszynski i S-ka in Poland, Droemer Knaur in Germany, Mynx in the Netherlands, and HarperCollins in the UK.

Bűnös Budapest (Sinful Budapest)[edit]

The sequel to Budapest Noir was published in June 2009 by Agave Könyvek. The story is set in the fall of 1939, a couple of weeks after the outbreak of World War II. and features Zsigmond Gordon and Sándor Nemes, a retired detective. They start investigating two different cases: Gordon wants to find out why a former colleague and friend has died, while Nemes is hired to find out what happened to a huge quantity of cocaine and morphine that has gone missing. The two cases merge, and the solution involves politicians, Hungarian Nazis and corrupt policemen. One reviewer, Péter Urfi, wrote about the "Kondor phenomenon":[2]

“In the Hungarian book market, developments as joyful as the Kondor phenomenon are rare. Kondor is a professional genre author: he knows exactly what a hard-boiled crime novel should be like, and how to write one. His protagonist, the resigned crime reporter Zsigmond Gordon, and his chosen time and place, Budapest in the 1930s, are both complex and mysterious enough for a series to be built around them, with the same characters and the same readers, for whom the slightly more lengthy Budapest Sin will not be a disappointment.” Magyar Narancs

A budapesti kém (The Budapest Spy)[edit]

Hungary is about to get drawn into World War II when Zsigmond Gordon is asked to do something important for his country, and sets out to catch a deadly spy in war-torn Europe, only to find the traitor in Budapest in 1943.

A critic called the novel a "time machine". [3]

"All those who have never daydreamed about travelling back in time with a time machine to change the course of certain events, raise your hand. If any of you wish to relive Hungary as it was in the 1940s, then by all means pick up Vilmos Kondor’s latest novel, which not only reveals practical espionage facts, but also depicts the operation and circumstances reigning within the secret services of a country being driven into war."

Budapest romokban (Budapest in Ruins)[edit]

After the horrors of World War II, Hungary is about to become a democracy, but in the summer of 1946 an assassin strikes in the middle of Budapest, and the consequences are more dire than anyone would dare to think. Gordon starts to investigate the real culprits, who turn out to be, not the criminal lords of the capital, but ruthless Soviet officers and their even more ruthless masters.

A reviewer emphasized that Kondor writes about a kind of freedom that has not been common in Hungary:[4]

“Without Vilmos Kondor’s work the acts of the man socialized for freedom (with all it consequences) couldn’t be studied in Hungarian texts.”

Budapest novemberben (Budapest in November)[edit]

October 1956 finds Gordon in exile in Vienna, where he is asked to identify a dead body as his adopted daughter. Even though the girl turns out to be someone else, Gordon – along with Krisztina – hops on the last train to Budapest, where a revolution has just started, tanks are rolling onto the streets, and people are dying by the hundreds. But Gordon is interested only in finding his daughter, and the dangerous killer who tries to stay hidden while chaos ensues on the streets of a city that is fighting for its independence and freedom.

A reviewer welcomed the way Kondor handles history in this final novel in the Budapest Noir series:[5]

"Kondor doesn't only paint a picture and doesn't only repeat what is in the history books: he tries to interpret it, make sense of it, and help us understand the relations and dynamics of this hectic era."

Short stories[edit]

Kondor has been publishing short stories since 2009. A collection was compiled in late 2012 for publication in 2013.

Style and method[edit]

Kondor always uses a third-person narrative that is arguably a masked first-person narrative, since the reader always sees what the protagonist(s) see. The narrator is also an historical figure who knows only the time frame of the novel and never steps out of it. Kondor thus views events through the eyes of his protagonists, and rarely comments on the political situation. He follows in the steps of Charles Willeford in the sense that his characters never "think", they only "act": there are no inner monologues.

Kondor mixes fictional characters with persons from real life, including Leó Vécsey (journalist), Kornél Tábori (journalist), Tibor Ferenczy (police commissioner), Péter Hain (detective), Tibor Wayand (detective), István Bárczy (chief of staff), and Vilmos Tarján (journalist). He thoroughly researches people and events in order to invoke the atmosphere of Hungary, and especially Budapest, in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.


External links[edit]