Books
by Stephen Vizinczey

An Innocent Millionaire

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An Innocent Millionare

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Excerpt | Read the Bookline

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English Reviews

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March 30, 1983
Hungarian Rhapsody
By Anthony Burgess
Punch

Arthur Koestler has left us, but we still have George Mikes and Stephen Vizinczey and, I don't doubt, other expatriate Hungarians not known to me trying to teach the English how to write English....

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Augest 11, 1985
From Rags to Steamy Riches
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco)

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November 12, 1983
An Innocent Millionaire
Financial Post (Toronto)

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August 3, 1984
After 14 years, Mr V. Strikes again
By Peter Carvosso
Evening Herald

Stephen Vizinczey made his name and fortune with the novel "In Praise of Older Women," which sold 21 million copies round the world. Then he took 14 years to write and re-write his next book "An Innocent Millionaire." Every hour at the typewriter was well spent; the result is simply the great read of the sumer....

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September, 1985
Return of the Popular Novel
by Cristina Monet
Literary Review (London)

“Harold Evans, the former editor of a The Sunday Times and The Times, has inaugurated his career as editor-in-chief of The Atlantic Monthly Press with the publication this summer of Stephen Vizinczey’s literary anomaly An Innocent Millionaire. Ironically enough, this novel, so incisive about America owes its appearance here to another Englishman as well...”

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30 June 1985
Classic tale highlights life's contrasts, dilemmas
By Michael Stern, San Jose Mercury News

"There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money," Samuel Johnson once wrote, contrasting the virtues of honest labor with the corrupting indolence of spending its fruits.

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23 July, 1984
An author’s debt to the foolishness which helped him write a wise book
by Harry Reid, The Herald (Glasgow)

“Last year Stephen Vizinczey’s second novel, An Innocent Millionaire, was published to great critical acclaim, as well as high praise from his fellow writers such as Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess and Brigid Brophy....”

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November 12, 1983
Innocent Millionaire book cover quotes

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French Reviews

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9 May, 2004
Le denier des heros romantiques
by Jean-Pierre Denis, Le Devoir

Stephen Vizinczey has only written two novels in his life, Éloge des femmes mûres and Un millionnaire innocent, both of them translated into some twenty languages. It's not much, but at the same time it's a lot....

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November-December, 2003
La Roue de la fortune
by Bernard Quiriny, Chronic'Art

Viewed from a language perspective, his fate has been a bit like Conrad's or Nabokov's....

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December, 2003
Par-delà le bien et le mal
by Aimé Ancian, Le magazine littéraire

Beyond Good and Evil

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26 November, 2003
La pêche au trésor
by Michèle Gazier, Télérama

Fishing for Treasure

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German Reviews

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10-16 May, 2001
Ein Netz aus Zufallen
by Volker Albers, Deutsches Allgemeines Sonntagsblatt (Germany)

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9 April, 1987
Monte Christo fallt unter Finanzhaie
by Wolfram Knorr, Die Weltwoche

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14 June, 1984
Menschliche Komodie im 20. Jahrhundert
by E. H., Neue Zurcher Zeitung

“...Stephen Vizinczey worked for twelve years building the world of his great novel. He sets in motion a multitude of characters, extraordinarily alive, both good and bad...”

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german

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Von Schonen Frauen, Schurken und Millionen
by Martin Halter, Berliner Zeitung

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Traum vom Reichsein
by Michael Felsen, Frankfurter Rundschau

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Spanish Language Reviews

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July-August 1989
El sexo como Vínculo entre generaciones
By Sergio Vila, Ajoblanco









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4-april 1996
Nunca hay que darse vencido por dentro
By José Luis Perdomo Orellana, Etcétera (Mexico city)




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4-april 1996
Siempre es pronto para desesperarse
By José Luis Perdomo Orellana, Etcétera (Mexico city)






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20 August 1989
Elogio del héroe
By Perdro Sorela
El País (Madrid)

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20 august 1989
Una imagen del mundo
By Juan Carlos Sunén
El País (Madrid)

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Portuguese Language Reviews

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July 1990
Excerpt, Un milionario inocente
Stephen Vizinczey, JL (Portugal)

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2nd March1988
Caca ao tesouro
Jose Manuel Cortes, Veja (Brazil)

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“The dream of a crook is a man with a dream.”
-Stephen Vizinczey

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First published in 1983 in London, welcomed by Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess, Nina Bawden, Brigid Brophy and most regular reviewers.

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Here is a selection of excerpts from those reviews:

“A humour more mature than that of Woodhouse or even Waugh . . . What sounds like a bitter attack on a world which has inverted traditional morality is in fact a dispassionate philosophical treatise which shows where the true values lie – not in wealth or the rule of law but in that as yet inviolate sector where a man and a woman make love . . . The distinction of the book lies in its calm clean prose style as well as the solidity of its characters, good and detestable alike. Vizinczey, who loves Stendhal and Balzac, is of the school that believes the author has a right to comment. Whatever the villains get away with in the narrative, they are not immune from the laconic judgments of the author . . . I was entertained but also deeply moved: here is a novel set bang in the middle of our decadent, polluted, corrupt world that, in some curious way, breathes a kind of desperate hope.”
– Anthony Burgess, Punch

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I emerged spinning with admiration: for the story’s ironies, so repeatedly and symmetrically folded back on themselves, for the sheer energetic sustaining of the invention, for the perfect pitch of the narrative tone.
Brigid Brophy (The London Magazine)

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“Bravo! I could hardly wait to read the end. This long serious beautifully organized novel is the more readable for containing the best funny scene I have read since Evelyn Waugh died.”
– Graham Greene

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“Romantic, intelligent, immensely exciting.”
– Nina Bawden, The Daily Telegraph

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“thrilling story, written with supreme skill and moral passion.”
– James Bentley, BBC World Service

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“A marvellous story, written by a master.”
– Terry Coleman, The Guardian

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“. . . a glorious 20th-century incarnation of the great social novels of the 19th century. . . . [The novel] concerns itself with the chances for survival of an endangered species; neither rogues nor fools – but innocents. . . . After reading An Innocent Millionaire one has a sense of having been thoroughly exercised, intellectually and emotionally. . . . Vizinczey has created an authentic social epic which reunites, after an estrangement of nearly a century, intellectual and moral edification with exuberant, rowdy and popular entertainment.”
– Cristina Monet, Literary Review

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“. . . a big, plotty, globe-trotting read that straps you into an enthralling roller-coaster of fortunes and emotions . . .”
The Observer

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“A very funny and serious book packed with aphorisms. . . . The author’s English is timeless, elaborate, musical . . . Someone urges Mark Niven to read Balzac . . . But Mark, with his monomaniac quest, his passion for money, his lone stand against the world, is already a character in a novel by Balzac, as are his enemies, powered by greed and anarchic individualism . . . a crescendo of treachery, delay and exploitation that makes Bleak House look like a tea-party. . . . It would be salutary to discover why this book, whose messages are unremittingly deflationary, should leave one so elated.”
– Victoria Glendinning, The Sunday Times

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“A black treasure hunt for the intelligentsia.” – Philip Howard, The Times

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In Praise of Older Women resounded throughout the world. This more than worthy successor is a truly noble performance, a fairy tale on of our times on the grand scale… The story is not only of great simplicity but of great drive… joys of first love tenderly described. But then the plot moves to new York and the picture darkens… Vizinczey has mounted an all-out attack on the evils of western society… You read slowly even when you long to know the end.”
– David Hughes, The Mail On Sunday

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“To say that this amazing novel is about a young man who finds fabulous treasure, only to be systematically robbed of it, is like saying that Hamlet is about a mad prince wandering about a castle contemplating whether he should commit suicide.”
– Harry Reid, The Glasgow Herald

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“It's gigantic. . . . It's full of the insights and obsessions of a man who has lived an extraordinary life and observed, with a filing-cabinet eye, the corruption of the powerful and the foibles of the insignificant . . . Charming and very, very tough.”
– Peter Carvosso, Evening Herald (Dublin)

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“A rare accomplishment, a contemporary adventure told with style, wit and wisdom.”
– Sam Tanenhaus, New York Times Book Review

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”Brilliantly inventive, written with great flair and shows a deliciously comic and inventive sense of American realities.”
– Alfred Kazin

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“An excellent novel. – a sardonic fable about the paltry uses of money, and the folly of making it stand as surrogate for all other measures of human value and feeling.”
– Lewis Lapham

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“The virtues of [Vizinczey’s] style are those he finds in Hungarian poetry: the moody ferocity of a locked-up beast, and also a classic clarity and complete lack of self-indulgence.”
– Thomas D'Evelyn, The Christian Science Monitor

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“A superb stylist who regularly invokes Stendhal as his master, Vizinczey is merciless in his depiction of the deadly sins of avarice and betrayal at the heart of every swindle . . . With his gift for powerful aphorisms, he frequently interrupts his story to comment on it without ever losing his narrative momentum.”
– David Lehman, Newsweek

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“Powerfully persuasive fiction, filled with human insight, literary poise, high imagination and, best of all, pure comedy . . . Vizinczey has placed himself in a category with Conrad and Nabokov as a foreigner who handles English in a way that strikes jealousy into the heart of the native English speaker.”
– Leslie Hanscom, Newsday (New York)

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“It is extraordinary how many of our modern American concerns the novel deals with. A great novel. I have just finished reading it for the third time and I now consider it three times as good as I did after the first reading. . . . It makes one feel that Balzac has come back to continue his Comédie humaine in America. If you like fiction with narrative power and rich philosophical texture, be sure to reread it.”
– Edwin Howard, Memphis Business Journal

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“. . . . his wit and insights are deliciously vicious. When the teenager Mark Niven is suffering intensely because his earnest letters to American corporations go unanswered, Vizinczey writes: 'He didn't know that America's efficiency experts had looked at the figures and decided that firms could save postage and secretarial time by ignoring inquiries that didn't interest them. No doubt eliminating politeness from society is a cost-effective way of hastening the day when people will bite each other in the street.' Or on sex: 'Sex is a mixed blessing. The news is old enough, yet it is every day's news. Men and women are not made for mutual satisfaction. Women cannot always flow and even when they do, they well up slowly, while men are quick as torrents - they are primed by nature to burst forth at different times. . . . It wasn't often that either of them crossed the twenty-minute gap, the abyss between the sexes.' An Innocent Millionaire is great fun, with real bite.”
– Raymond Mungo, San Francisco Chronicle

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“Superb, unpredictable pacing. . . . Vizinczey tells the story of his young hero with the sardonic affection the middle-aged have for their younger and better selves. . . . “To stay rich, people must be nearer to the dead than the living: they can't afford to get carried away by anything,” muses the narrator of An Innocent Millionaire in a Stendhalian aside contrasting passion and calculation, letting go and holding back, romance and finance, the polarities which structure Vizinczey's splendid new novel. Vizinczey is a Hungarian émigré who has taken command of English with the authority of that other Eastern European exile, Joseph Conrad. . . . An Innocent Millionaire has the classic plot of the great realist novels: a young hero from the provinces, dreaming of wealth, power and the love of women, makes his way to the heart of the great metropolis and succeeds beyond even his own imaginings. But his success turns to ashes. . . . Vizinczey tells the story of his young hero with the sardonic affection the middle-aged have for their younger, better selves. Mark Niven, the expatriate American son of divorced parents. . . . fanatically pursues his own dream: finding a sunken Spanish treasure ship. His adventures take him through Europe, America and finally to the shark-infested reefs where his Jungian fantasies come true. . . . the aquatic sharks are mild-mannered indeed compared to the human predators who beset Mark once he hits the jackpot. He discovers that 'to be rich is to be at war with the world', with a rogues' gallery of art dealers, revolutionaries, gangsters, lawyers, jealous husbands and tax collectors after his money, his life, or both. Like Stendhal, Vizinczey will take pages to describe a minute in the inner life of a character, then spend a mere sentence on a crucial external action. . . . One of the finest jump-cuts in a narrative with the jerky, superbly unpredictable pacing of Le Rouge et le Noir takes us from Mark's moment of triumph in the sea to the office of the Bahamian tax assessor… .The heart of An Innocent Millionaire is what happens next. Will Mark recognize the true riches of his love for the equally innocent (but conveniently wealthy) Marianne Hardwick, who is trapped in a deadly marriage to a ruthless tycoon, or will he spend his substance on the quest to recover his albatross of a treasure? The last third of An Innocent Millionaire is the harrowing story of Mark's doomed lawsuits against his tormentors, an anatomy of the ways of the world, rivaling Balzac's exposé of the publishing business and credit markets in Lost Illusions with Vizinczey's loathsome impresario John Vallantine standing in for Balzac's rapacious Cointets. . . . A contemporary version of Stendhal on love and Balzac on money.”
– Michael Stern, San Jose Mercury News

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“A dazzling performance. It is as if Balzac had come back to life and written a novel about the modern world… After all these years preparing in the wings, Vizinczey has stepped forward with a dazzling performance. We’ll hear a great deal more about An Innocent Milionaire.”
– Robert Fulford, The Toronto Star

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“. . .attack on the vices of our society, “made” with the finesse of a scalpel but the power of a sledge hammer.”
– Ronald Colman, Canadian Book Review Annual

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“A treasure trove. A sublime parable by a man who can explain a human being in a paragraph.”
– Alan Twigg, The Vancouver Province

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“Finally we have the triumph of tone of Stephen Vizinczey's An Innocent Millionaire. An ironic romance, the novel involves us in young Mark Niven’s quixotic quest for the Flora, a treasure ship sunk in the Bahamas in the nineteenth century, and the unexpectedly more difficult task of defending his acquisition. Paradoxically, Mark’s single-minded obsession, from age fourteen on, with finding and keeping a three-hundred-million-dollar fortune is presented sympathetically as innocent idealism, exposing the greed and ruthlessness around him, just as his affair with a young married heiress, Marianne Hardwick, affects us as a pure, moving love story. The novel is rich in interest and drama, but it is the witty, experienced narrative voice, with its ironic aphorisms, sardonic asides, and the astute running commentary on human weakness and foibles, which invests a lively adventure story of love and intrigue with broader significance. . . . Taken in isolation, the cynical commentary - on legal deviousness, industrial corruption, business insensitivity, media equivocation, art fraud, and so on - might suggest a narrow, embittered perspective. Certainly the indictment of the legal profession in particular is virulent. But this is one dimension only of a broad moral vision, exacting and unequivocal but large-spirited, which balances censure with shrewd affirmations and affectionate appreciation for human potential. For all the meanness, unscrupulousness, and self-deception mordantly exposed, An Innocent Millionaire also provides convincing displays of integrity, selflessness and love. . . .”
– Helen Hoy, University of Toronto Quarterly

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“This is a terrific book. You will love it. You will not wash dishes, neither will you mow the lawn, but you will sit and read and lament when you have passed the half-way mark. Vizinczey's previous novel, In Praise of Older Women, was one of the most charming books of the century, and An Innocent Millionaire displays the same quality. . . . His story of Mark Niven's obsessive search for a sunken treasure, his triumphs and failures through an erratic boyhood and youth, his discovery of the treasure and true love at the same time and 'what happened next' is fast-moving and racy, funny and sad. But the novel is not just a tour de force of popular appeal. . . . Irony informs the book's style more than anything else. Vizinczey takes delight in deflating the moral imperatives of the age. . . . The irony extends to all the human relationships in the book. Children turn their power on their parents, the biter gets bitten in the law courts, the mega-polluter becomes paranoid about pollution and drives his household crazy using bottled water. . . . Not for Vizinczey detachment or the illusion that the story is taking place in the continuous present. By shamelessly staying in control and looking ahead, the author is able to make scenes - such as the conclusion of a deal between treasure-laden Mark Niven and the rapacious New York agent Vallantine - almost unbearably wry: “Vallantine came and went, taking his copy of the contract. 'I hope this will be the beginning of a lifelong association, Mark,' he said as they shook hands on the deal. They would never see each other again.” You can't write books like Vizinczey's out of greed or vanity (the motivation behind most bestsellers), rather you need to have suffered, loved, worked and laughed. To be able to distill those experiences into enjoyable literature is a great gift which deserves a great reward.”
– Peter Corris, The National Times (Sydney)

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Un millionaire innocent is a madly attractive Candide . . . hilarious, absolutely Homeric battle of lawyers . . . impossible to put down before reaching “The End”. . . makes Vizinczey one of the most remarkable English-language writers of our time.”
– Bernard Quiriny, Chronic'Art (Paris)

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“The hero of this parable fulfils his dream. The gold of the Incas is his. His? The naive young man learns to his cost that 'to be rich is to be at war with the world . . .' Not a dead moment, not an empty word in the account of his misadventures, full of satirical verve . . . the mockery pulverizes the scourges of our time. You marvel at the power of a portrait woven from three adjectives. Reading this novel you rejoice, you reflect . . . Here is a book that gladdens the mind.”
– Lili Braniste, Lire (Paris)

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“With intelligence and a great deal of humor, Stephen Vizinczey puts his name to a work which is profoundly romantic. This story of revenge and success conceals a thorough going attack on ruthless ambition, on parvenus and other masters of the world. A good observer, Vizinczey mounts a subtle critique of the milieu of the cinema, the jet-set, politics and business in which irony is blended with a certain resignation. However he never loses sight of the other great theme of his book,: the love story which is, again, a paean of praise for the feminine.”
– Jean-Maurice de Montremy, Livres-Hebdo (Paris)

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“Mastery of narration, a sense of the absurd, writing that is full of life, crisp aphorisms, all these things already make An Innocent Millionaire well worth reading. But throughout the book it is the way that Vizinczey makes us feel, just under the rippling surface of the story, the complexity, the absurdity and the cruelty of the world, that is the most admirable thing of all.”
– Aimé Ancian, Magazine littéraire (Paris)

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“You gobble up Un millionaire innocent like an adventure story and savour it like a bedside book . . . a superb novel about love, sensual and sensitive.”
– Michèle Gazier, Télérama (Paris)

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Der Unschuldige Millionär
by Vizinczey is a masterpiece - - easy to read and hard to forget.”
– Wolfgang Krege, Buch Aktuell (Osterhorn)

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“A brilliantly colored mosaic of crime, adventure and philosophical reflections, which holds the reader more deeply fascinated with every page. The novel sheds light on what holds the world together. This binding force is not firm and incontrovertible, as in Goethe, but something fragile and elusive. A net woven from intrigue, hope and chance determines the fate of mankind. Vizinczey spreads out this net for us in an enthralling manner; he has written a great novel.”
– Volker Albers, Deutsches Allgemeines Sonntagsblatt (Hamburg)

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“What sort of world is this? How can a halfway-decent human being live in it? Who are his enemies, who could be his friends? These are the questions Vizinczey asks . . . Novels like this, with thrilling plot and narration and written with masterly skill, are rare among us. Vizinczey presents a wealth of vividly drawn characters and human situations and tempts the reader to race through a book which also offers much food for thought.”
– Klaus Schomburg, Frankfurter Rundschau (Frankfurt)

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“Vizinczey's New York attorneys make Balzac's shyster lawyers look like little orphan boys.”
– Martin Halter, Berliner Morgenpost (Berlin)

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“A masterpiece. . . . Strikes like a thunderbolt. Vizinczey has written a novel that encompasses the experiences of generations – it amuses you and shakes you through and through, excites you and makes you thoughtful . . . A book that can move with such art and simplicity, with such glorious unsentimentality and sardonic humor, between dream and adventure and the chemical industry, sea anemones and hammerhead sharks, have-nots and multi-millionaires – that book towers over all the engagé literature and brilliant social criticism both intellectually and spiritually and rises to the Olympian fields of the great classical drama . . . A more thrilling, more forceful book is scarcely conceivable.”
– Wolf Achilles, Flensburger Tageblatt

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“There are books that are so filled with life, so full to bursting with lived experience, that they act like a mirror of reality. Der Unschuldige Millionär by Stephen Vizinczey is such a book. You discover the world all over again as if it were new, and resemblances to reality are not at all coincidental.”
– Günter Fischer, Münchner Stadtzeitung

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“Balzac on a treasure hunt. With cunning simplicity Vizinczey confronts the highest and lowest concerns of humanity. He tells foreground stories of everyday life while all the time he has in mind the divine and the diabolical, the abject and the sublime. The novel is constructed with supreme dramatic skill and it has total inner coherence.” – Hans Romer, Nürnberger Zeitung (Nuremberg)

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Un Inncente milionnairo is Candide in the Bahamas . . . Everything is there, yet it is written in such a way that the reader has the impression that he reaches the end in an instant.”
– Masolino d'Amico, La Stampa (Milan)

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"Acute observations, brilliant judgments and incisively sketched psychological portraits. Caustic with the winners and tender with the losers, Vizinczey is a vigorous storyteller with vast horizons.”
– Giovanni Cavalotti, Il Giornale (Milan)

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Un Millonario inocente
literally pulses with life. Apart from a great deal else, it is a thrilling and tragic love story. There is no doubt that Vizinczey is one of the great writers of our time.”
– Angel Vivas, Album (Madrid)

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"Un millionario inocente leaves the reader with the impression that it is easy to write novels – because it reflects so closely what we think, imagine and dream, what we do and what happens to us.” – Menene Gras Balaguer, La Vanguardia (Barcelona)

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"Vizinczey portrays all the worms in the Big Apple. An Innocent Millionaire is a roar of laughter which does not shirk tragedy. It has the European touch universalized by Central Europeans like Wilder and Lubitsch. The book exudes the joy of living.”
– Antonio Deblas, La Voz de Asturias (Aviles)

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“One of those writers who emerge full-grown from obscurity to fame. A Hungarian émigré whom English fits like a second skin, he is, like Conrad and Nabokov, one of the 'extra-territorial writers,' as Steiner calls them. . . . Vizinczey succeeds in making the reader laugh and he also knows how to surprise us. His disenchanted gaze penetrates the secret of things. He goes for the substantial and functional, but never lingers on the obvious. His novel is acid, sensual, romantic, satirical, and the ending is both tragic and uplifting.” – Ventura Melia, Levante (Alicante)

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For full reviews, go to ‘News & Reviews’

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An Excerpt from

An Innocent Millionaire

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A Bitter Thought

August 22, 1963, Toledo, Spain

I am looking at the towers and battlements of Toledo, the ancient capital of Spain, which stands on top of the hill across the ravine, and I have decided to make a note of all the important events of my life so that people will know what I have been through.

But will they bother reading it? I'm probably wasting my time. What's the use? Men are not brothers but strangers and no one is interested in anybody's story. People just do not give a damn about each other.

Mark Niven was fourteen years old when he wrote this first entry in his diary and he meant every word of it, for he never added another line.

The diary itself is a solid book bound in blue morocco leather with a Toledo sword embossed in gilt on the cover; evidently he thought it was too expensive a thing to throw away.

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An Innocent Millionaire
by Stephen Vizinczey

An Innocent Millionare
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