A hilarious and poignant rediscovered classic: the story of a young boy's struggle and (mis)adventures as he escapes poverty in interwar Budapest
Béla has never had much luck. Abandoned in foster care and almost starved by his guardian, he must fight for everything, from scraps of food to the right to go to school. At fourteen he is caught trying to steal a pair of shoes; his mother is called and reluctantly takes him with her to the capital.
So begins Béla’s energetic flight to escape poverty. Propelled by little more than exuberant charm, he finds his feet working in a grand old hotel, where a more privileged life seems to extend a hand to him. But as Béla becomes entangled with the beautiful daughter of an American businessman and a passionate revolutionary colleague, he must try to find a way to forge his own life from the divergent influences around him.
An endlessly entertaining, picaresque classic with a rich vein of bawdy humour, Temptation is an under-appreciated masterpiece of twentieth-century fiction.
János Székely was a Hungarian novelist and screenwriter. He fled Budapest for Berlin, where he penned scripts for silent movie stars including Marlene Dietrich. In 1938 he emigrated to the United States and continued writing for films in Hollywood, winning an Academy Award for Best Story for Arise, My Love in 1940. His novel Temptation was initially published in English translation in 1946 under the pseudonym John Pen. Blacklisted during the McCarthy era, Székely spent several years in Mexico with his family before returning to Berlin in 1957. He died there in 1958.