The clever and enjoyable premises are one thing, but what really impresses in Night School is Bán's free-wheeling, wide-ranging style. This is cheeky, playful writing, but with a great deal of depth to it. There's little convention here, with shifts from one line to the next ... There's an enjoyable and very wide variety of stories but perhaps the only slightly disappointing thing about the collection is that it's not entirely cohesive; some of the stories -- good though they are -- feel a bit of an odd fit, all the more so because a large core do seem to be of a (very fine) piece. The textbook-like arrangement is inspired, complete with the illustrations, but a few of the pieces do feel like they're a bit forced into it ... Beyond that, however, this is an impressive, even wonderful work, Bán's dense, bubbling flow of ideas and words carrying readers along like on some wild river raft-ride ... very smart, good -- if dizzying -- fun, by a remarkably assured writer.
Doesn’t read like a translation at all. Nor does it read like anything you’ve ever perused ... takes readers on a wild romp through a kaleidoscope of postmodern fairy tales ... might not seem to lend itself to translation, so bursting with slang, neologisms, tongue-in-cheek zingers, and off-the-cuff historical and literary references, yet one cannot deny the sheer Dadaist power and Seussian flare ... Bán’s humor transcends language barriers, and Tucker’s translation never leaves us wondering what we’ve missed out on by not speaking Hungarian. A must-read for anyone who needs a break from the grim currents of contemporary literature, yet still craves the heady thrill of a really smart book.
Literary and pop culture icons are redrawn in brighter, bolder colours, with a healthy dose of irreverence towards the narratives that bind together societies. That defiant irreverence is Night School’s greatest strength ... Zsófia Bán’s textbook parody is a bravura performance, and perhaps it has more to teach us than we might initially think.