When reading Gyula Krúdy’s Sunflower, one is immediately thrust into a Budapest clouded in mystic realism; deceased, heartbroken lovers climb out of their coffins to win back their true loves, and memories of the sordid characters strolling the dark streets of ‘Pest’ are so haunting and real that they can assume human form. These harrowing memories and resurrected corpses, however, never pull the reader so far into the ethereal that they truly escape Pest—the events, as mystic as they can be, unfold in Budapest (and just outside it) and the reader is never challenged to completely abandon geography and remove himself from the city.
Krúdy’s The Adventures of Sindbad, however, is just the opposite. It instills in its characters, all of which seem to dance along the line of the living and the dead, such poignant feelings of hopelessness, loss, and yearning, unified and lent a certain aesthetic by a prevailing love, that the reader can’t help but feel that everything is occurring in a sort of netherworld. Or, perhaps, that everything either has long since transpired, or won’t transpire for ages to come.
Reading the many tales of Sindbad, you get the sense that Krúdy doesn’t really want the reader to know, because it doesn’t really matter; and he’s right—it doesn’t. Whether living or dead, long ago or soon to be, following Sindbad through his many visitations to former lovers, you can’t help but feel yourself like an apparition, floating through chapters of an eerie life that at moments may feel familiar to your own, but is distinguished by something not quite identifiable, yet utterly terrifying. And once the journey is over, instead of leaving the traveler wistful, Krúdy manages to somehow transform all of the loss and regret encountered along the way into a dark, yet resilient, euphoria that confirms the trope; love conquers all.