Ottilie Mulzet at The Quarterly Conversation:
György Spiró’s novel Captivity, beautifully rendered into English by Tim Wilkinson, is a work of ambition—almost literally, not only metaphorically, titanic. Undeniably, it is titanic in the sense of the evocation of gargantuan sweep and breadth; and it is no less titanic in its hopes to re-awaken a Latin-Hellenic-Hebraic world at the base of what we now consider the “Global West.”
Indeed, Captivity’s depiction of the classical world is most noteworthy in its viewpoint, taking antiquity at a highly significant remove: the viewpoint of an average Jewish citizen facing the varied spheres of ancient Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and rural Judaea at the beginning of the Common Era. At the same time, the novel itself assumes a similar stance in relation to its new Anglophone readership, as the life’s achievement of a major Hungarian literary talent. Not only has Captivity proven a major success among the Hungarian reading public—going through no fewer than 14 printings of the first edition—but even more importantly, it is the long-awaited capstone to Spiró’s career as a writer. And even more so, it is the mass public success of a Hungarian-Jewish author living through the often grim experience of Hungary in the 20th century (who is, as it happens, a close friend of Imre Kertész, and significantly, the first reviewer, in 1983, to call attention to the importance of Kertész’s Sorstalanság (Fatelessness)).