Divided into 27 chapters, the novel recounts some of the childhood experiences of Fénix, a boy who grows up in the Hungarian city of Ipolyság, within the context of the German invasion and the subsequent Russian advance and domination of Hungary. Fénix, who supposedly got his name because he was born at the “dawn” of the Second World War, which his parents believed to be “Humanity’s rebirth, when technology, medicine and other sciences [would take] a great leap”, lives in a loveless world, with his mother, an utterly cold materialist, and his father, at the head of his handicrafts factory by day, or at the Casino amusing himself with prostitutes by night. And so, abandoned by his natural parents, little Fénix seeks refuge in the love of Judit, daughter of the peasant family that lives behind his mansion, and tends the animals, orchard and vegetables; she works as a servant in the home while she looks after Fénix. Judit and Fénix build a relationship that is at the same time a combination of friendship, brotherhood, motherhood, deep love and sexuality. During the war, from the first appearance of Hungarian troops that recapture the city for Hungary from Czechoslovakia, the arrival of the Nazis who take the Jews out of the city (including Fénix’s best friend) and send them to un unknown destination, up to the takeover of the city by the Russians, the love between Judit and Fénix perseveres and grows, until Judit’s sudden death when she steps on a mine.
Pablo Urbanyi received the Latin American Achievement Award. His books have been translated to English, French, and Hungarian.