• Random House

When my editor left the review copies of the new edition of Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy on my desk during my first week working here, I assumed it was some sort of joke or hazing ritual. (“Let’s give the new writer the most bizarre and obscure-looking title from the unwanted books cabinet and see what she does!”) Within a week, I was so deeply engrossed in Volume 1 that I was texting people things like, “Oh, major shit’s going down in Transylvania now!”

That is really the beauty of really, really fat novels. They look intimidating, like they’ll do serious damage if you drop them on your foot (even in the paperback editions), and they’re not really the optimal size for reading on the el, particularly if you’re on a crowded train and have to stand, but once you get into them, you never want to let them go.

While a shorter book is like a brief vacation to another world, with a fat book, you’re moving in and settling down for a few weeks or months in real-life time or a few years or even a couple of generations in book time. You get to know the characters and the particular concerns and rituals of their world extremely well. Questions about who is going to marry whom are always of interest, but with a long book, you find yourself worrying about the legal and social implications of changing the method of running the family farm.

So. Bánffy and his Transylvanian Trilogy, which appears next week in America for the first time ever. The translation comes from a British edition from 2000, a collaboration between Bánffy’s daughter Katalin Bánffy-Jellin and Patrick Thursfield. (For more about the books’ history, check out the entry on the wonderful Neglected Books Page.)