|P E T E R H A R G I T A I
|Sensitive and powerful, Peter Hargitai's novel Millie brims with passion and wit. Its hero, Art
Nagy, is a Hungarian Alex Portnoy, forging anew an identity on the edge of two cultures. Millie
is destined to take a distinguished place on the shelf of world literature.
Author of Sister of Darkness
|In this darkly comic novel about a refugee boy's coming-of-age in 1960's America, Peter
Hargitai does for Cleveland's Hungarians what Herbert Gold did for its Jews-bring to life the
quirks, prejudices, and strivings of a people struggling to make it in an alien land.
-Sanford J. Smoller
Contributing editor of "Pembroke Magazine"
Author of Adrift Among Geniuses: Robert McAlmon, Writer and Publisher of the Twenties
|Hargitai's prose is swift, sure, and irresistible. Reminiscent of Kundera.
PETER HARGITAI's Millie is a novel that touches the heart. In a story of the quintessential
American dream, immigration, Hargitai tells of the coming-of-age of Art Nagy, a young
Hungarian who arrives in America after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Soviet-
Communist occupation. Art struggles to make sense of life not only as an adolescent but also
within his family who insist on transplanting many of their customs and much of their thinking
from their country of origin, including less than attractive ideas about race and class. Art's
likes and dislikes and the friends he chooses bring the family to clash over values and beliefs,
and culminate in tragedy when he falls in love with a girl from a different background. His
deep love for Millie pits him against everything his family believes in. And the final pages of
the novel reveal acts of horror in his family's past and explain much of what Art Nagy was up
against. Every page keeps the reader fascinated, unable to put it down until the very end.
-Steven Totosy de Zepetnek, Editor
Comparative Cultural Studies Series
Its innocent sincerity will always be a part of your life
Book review by Howard Schumann ©2007 OhmyNews
Adolescence, even in the best of family situations, can be a time of insecurity and rebellion.
When parents also reject their teen's close friends, it may increase the divide between
generations and prevent a nurturing relationship. Inspired by his mentor Nobel Laureate Isaac
Bashevis Singer, Peter Hargitai's bittersweet novel Millie is a heartfelt journey of two
teenagers from different cultural backgrounds who are rejected by their tradition-bound
parents and find it hard to simply be together or to express their deep love without parental
interference. It is a touching novel, sometimes very funny and often extremely sad but one
you will not be able to put down.
Eighteen-year old Art Nagy, whose real name is Attila and is known comically as "Attila the
Hunk," is a Hungarian immigrant whose family came to America after the Revolution of
1956, and the story is told from his point of view. Loosely based on the author's experience
as a young man, Art follows the path made famous by J. D. Salinger's hero of Catcher in the
Rye, Holden Caulfield, right down to his racy lingo.
Unlike Salinger's main protagonist, however, he is not a spoiled rich kid attending Pencey
Prep but part of a poor immigrant family whose father was a judge in Hungary but is now a
janitor. They live in Cleveland, Ohio, in the sixties, a place the narrator describes as "a
stinking, polluted city." Tired of being abused by the steel mills "corporate America was
spewing into the air" he dreams of leaving his city and his "goddamn grand familia" and
heading to Prince Edward Island or Manitoba with his girlfriend Millie.
Though he is contemptuous of his scheming Uncle Arthur whom he suspects was a party to
crimes against humanity, his passive older brother Janos and especially his anti-Semitic and
paranoid father Ferenc, he says that his family always reminded him that he could never run
away from who he was. Determined that Art become a doctor, his father gives him a huge
medical book, which the boy carries around with him all the time, becoming the source
material for his ongoing hypochondria.
Art first meets Millie at Fairview High School and the relationship continues when he
attends Cleveland State University and she goes to the Cleveland Art Institute. Millie is
attractive. Art describes her as having "shiny black hair" and "super blue eyes" and a tiny
nose that he calls "the most beautiful nose he had ever seen."
"Her hair and eyes were shiny," he tells us, "and she had this fresh smell, not like perfume
or anything like that, but the kind of smell that hits you when you open a Christmas present."
Unfortunately, their relationship does not fit the expectations of their parents.
Millie's father prefers an all-American type. Atilla's dad resents the fact that Millie is part
Jewish and his mother thinks that all American girls are whores. Things get out of hand when
Millie's mother discovers the young couple making love on the dining room table but this is
only the start of the roller coaster ride. The journey propels us through brawling soccer
matches, concussions and hospitalizations, a suspicious fire that burnt down Uncle Arthur's
bar and grill, Millie's fear of being pregnant and a final tragedy that serves to reinforce the
young couple's resolve.
Millie will strike a responsive chord with those who have felt their spirit dampened by
dogmatism in whatever form it takes. Art is a kindred spirit to all rebellious teenagers who
look at the adult world with a wry and detached cynicism. Though he is angry, oversensitive
and somewhat reckless, he is capable of moving from a bitter disdain for authority to a
growing maturity and sense of responsibility, and this is what gives the book its strength.
Hargitai creates people, not characters. An American classic yet to be discovered, Millie
has an innocent sincerity that will always be a part of your life.