Malcolm Forbes at The Quarterly Conversation:
Antal Szerb’s lithe, lively, and wholly endearing fiction is peopled by male dreamers on spiritual journeys of self-discovery. Each one sets out on his respective mini-mission with good intentions but knows from the outset that there are only so many harsh truths he can withstand. In this respect, all Szerb’s protagonists seem to have heeded the advice of Greene’s Dr. Hasselbacher at the beginning of Our Man in Havana: “You should dream more, Mr. Wormold. Reality in our century is not something to be faced.”
Dr. János Bátky, the narrator of Szerb’s first full-length novel, The Pendragon Legend(1934), is a Hungarian academic on sabbatical in Great Britain. When he is invited to the Welsh castle of the Earl of Gwynedd he is dragged into a world of family intrigue, superstition, treachery, and murder. After enough nocturnal escapades and jangled nerves he yearns to beat a retreat to London, “Back to the British Museum, to the impregnable calmness of books.” “You speak like someone who has no ideals,” the enchanting Cynthia tells him. “True,” Bátky replies, “I am a neo-frivolist.” Bátky appears again in a short story from the same year, “A Dog Called Madelon.” His unwillingness to accept humdrum normality is made clear in the first paragraph.