Goodbye Comrades and Other Stories
by Peter Pogany

"Hasty decisions, virulent spontaneity, to be cherished and regretted decades later—isn't that what life is all about? If you are unwilling to accept this muddle you may be trudging through the wrong universe."

The entertainment industry thrives on blockbusters. Big car chases, epic quests, and thrill-a-minute extended battles that somehow result in the saving of our world once again from complete destruction are common selections from the grab bag used to piece together our best-selling movies and books. But these flashy tales serve only as escapism from the ordinary yet frequently poignant stories that are being written out daily in our lives and in those around us. The author of this intriguing collection of short stories avoids the worn-out plot devices associated with much of modern writing and instead concentrates more on the inner churnings of the heart and mind. Pogany writes fiction, but the sketches and vignettes he shares with his readers reflect the bittersweet truths of reality.

The author does quite a bit of globetrotting with his settings, placing his characters in diverse locations in Europe or the United States with forays into other parts of the world such as Vietnam or Australia. Yet in all of these spots he focuses on rather average individuals who due to their circumstances and the choices they make soon find themselves locked into life-changing dilemmas. Of course, since life is not a Disney movie, his characters don't always get to enjoy a classic happy ending. For example, in the title tale a young couple chafing under the yoke of Communism in Hungary during the early 1960s conspires to defect to the West. Although successful in their efforts, life on the other side is not everything they dreamed of. Homesickness, loss of prestige, etc. weigh them down, and while they eventually learn to adapt and be content in their adopted land, a trip by the widowed wife with her granddaughter back to Budapest in her later years serves mainly to bring back painful memories and remind her of her loss.

Pogany is obviously well educated and writes convincingly of the international set. With only rare exceptions he maintains a focused, linear approach in his narrative which, despite the frequent philosophical musings of the protagonists, tends to keep his reader engaged in the story. Thematically, his stories are reminiscent of certain works by Flannery O'Connor and the shorter fiction of Anne Tyler. Pogany's selections exhibit a level of craftsmanship in both framework and content that testifies to his mastery of the form.

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