To be honest, I don’t know how I managed to write my first book or what the exact source of inspiration for its characters, plot, and ideas may have been. To paraphrase Colin Wilson’s idea, I simply began the project as a sort of thought experiment, unsure of where it would go and how it would end. I am in a similar place now. A general premise exists, but I cannot predict where this story will go. For me, fiction writing has always been like setting about on a journey inspired by a general sense of destination but lacking any sense of itinerary.
The City of Earthly Desire was difficult to write at first. At its most basic level, I wanted the book to be a polemic against the ugly rise and proliferation of the pornography industry in Budapest following the collapse of the Iron Curtain. At a deeper level, I approached the book as an act of repentance for my own unfortunate engagement with pornography in the past. My aim was to write a novel about the harmful and dangerous allure of hedonism and the Beauty of Sodom, and juxtapose these with real Beauty. Thus, I began working on the novel in 2009 armed with little more than these general notions.
In retrospect, these aims did not give me much with which to work. To be frank, I found the prospect of writing about the porn industry rather unappealing in itself, and it was not my ambition to pen any kind of sex novel similar to the ones that saturate bestseller lists today. It also became clear that I would never finish the narrative if it became nothing more than a rant against pornography disguised as fiction. As a consequence, I gave my imagination free rein in the first draft in an effort to see where the story could take me.
As the months passed, the narrative flowed into places I never could have imagined – unexpected landscapes emerged and a geography I could not have predicted revealed itself to me. The journey ventured into unforeseen territories – Hungarian history and mythology, communism, Danube Swabian culture, painting and fine art, emigration and the American Dream, liberalism and its discontents, and Christianity and spiritual seeking to name but a few.
By the time I finished the first draft, my anti-pornography book had blossomed into something far more complex than I had originally envisioned. As the characters came to life on paper, they invariably infused their presence into the narrative, and wove their personal stories seamlessly into the fabric of the larger story. In the end, the subject of pornography still dominated some aspects of the story, but it was no longer the only story, nor the REAL story.
As I currently prepare to write a new novel, I am filled with tremendous enthusiasm and anticipation. I don’t know where this latest fiction-writing journey will ultimately take me, but I have no doubt the journey will be an exhilarating one filled with unexpected destinations and unforeseen soujorns ultimately culminating in a place I cannot even imagine today.