Web page ©Cameron Cunningham
All graphics ©: Val Biro and used with his permission


Published by Sylvan Press, 1945



The book cover, above, is of one of the first commissions that Charles Rosner gave to Val when he was 24 years of age. The cover illustration relates to the short story 'My Madmen'. The full picture will be found below. There you will find more of the wonderful illustrations and text from Tabori's book.


The door swung open. I looked up, ready to welcome Ferenc and beer. But the door framed a huge man dressed in a white suit and holding a foo-lomg kitchen knife. His hair, a carroty red, reached to his shoulders; he was wearing sandals and his big red toes looked particularly brutish. All this I took in without moving or speaking. He marched up to my desk and said:

"I am God."

Now there should have been many answers to this startling pronouncement. But the kitchen knife seemed to limit them uncomfortably. It would have ben unfortunate if I had expressed doubt or disbelief. The blade was gleaming sharp and pointed. I knew that before I opened my mouth to shout for help, it might cut my throat.



It is almost six months since I heard from you and there's little enough hope that news should reach us here for a long time. Yet I am writing this letter which I cannot, dare not, send, even through the official and normal channels, because it would get you into trouble.

But tomorrow will be your birthday and I must write to you. Sixty five isn't it? Strange that I never quite knew your exact age; but in my memory you have changed little. No doubt your hair has turned white and the furrows on your face are deeper; but your eyes, I am sure, must be the same clear blue and your voice the same warm, soothing voice I haven't heard for five years.

No, I daren't risk sending this letter; for I know that you have been in trouble on my account two years ago. They came then and took you to Police Headquarters for questioning, but after three days they let you go. Your only crime was that I was your son.



Was he ugly? Many thought so, but he held a fatal fascination for women He was in love, hopelessly, with all of them and they thought him "interesting" and laughed at his clowning. His forehead was broad rather than high, with thick hair hanging down, sweat-plastered. Lines, deeply-carved across the domed expanse, lines of parallel suffering and laughter..........

His eyes were deepset and of a startling clear blue. The eyebrows formed a bushy bulwark; and below them, like the sudden miracle of a mountain lake, the eyes gazed at you. He seemed to see little and he saw so much; all his life he sat behind the plate glass of cafes, the windows of trains; or he walked the streets, the mountains, the squares, absorbing the everyday calvary of our times, never reflecting it like a shallow mirror, but transforming it in the deep fastness of his heart.



When I was eight, my father took me, all unwittingly, to the wars.My mother was recovering from a long illness at a small Styrian health resort with my younger brother to keep her company. A typhoid epidemic had broken out in the capital and when my father was sent to Transylvania, he took me along- not without misgivings- but he had no choice. In any case Transylvania was quiet and peaceful when we set out; it seemed that the Rumanians would be hesitating for a long time before they decided to join in the war.

Father, however astute a journalist could not forsee the sudden change in the Bucharest cabals and the unexpected, undeclared invasion of the lovely, mountainous "Country Beyond the Forest". He was on a quest for the grave of a young officer- son of his paper's proprietor- and he thought that he had provided against any emergency...except the one which overtook us.



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