The challenge: if people would only know, hear, and see what poets did, then at least some of them would realize too how cool literature can actually be. - Three projects which engage in popularizing, mediating, and digitally archiving contemporary Hungarian poetry.
Márai’s oeuvre was shaken out of its coma after 1989, when his works were first published in Hungary, then later went on to reach international success. By leaving Hungary in 1948, he made a decision that proved to be fateful from the point of view of his oeuvre’s future in his native land; at the same time, it was a natural extension of an exile intended to be a symbolically powerful, moral reminder.
The rootedness of Borbély's poems in the literary forms of the Baroque and their religious orientation could work against their reception in the English-speaking literary world. Yet the theological stance always runs perilously close to the blasphemous, and the rigourous form is always at the point of decay.
If you are yearning for the kind of catharsis that raises gooseflesh, then read The Splendours of Death by Szilárd Borbély. Be forewarned, however, as you are about to encounter one of the most staggering volumes to appear in recent decades. In suggestive verses of hypnotic strength, the poet erects a monument to a mother: a mother who became the victim of a savage murder.
Distant from Asia, yet not in Europe. Moving away from the East towards the West, wary of the former, hopeful in the latter. (...) To the foreigner, Hungary appears a land of contradictions, a terra incognita with much that is recognizably European, but even more that remains beyond comprehension, just as an operetta bears some resemblance to real life, yet is light years distant from it.
Éva Berniczky is Transcarpathia's long-awaited, yet still very fresh-voiced story-teller. Her description of her homeland brings to mind the very best of “magical realism”; like Latin America, Transcarpathia is also a region of intersecting cultures and religions. Poised on the border of Western and Eastern Christianity, this is a world in which Ukrainians, Ruthenians and Hungarians live side by side.
Szindbad, the hauntingly charismatic, enduring traveler on journeys of the heart, may well be Krúdy’s most memorable fictional character. Kázmér Rezeda is the other major, “larger than life” figure in Krúdy’s oeuvre, appearing in six longer works, ending with the novel The Charmed Life of Kázmér Rezeda, now being translated into English by John Batki.
Oravecz records the history of the disintegration of rural culture as though he was retelling the myth of Atlantis. The Ditch of Ondrok is a three-generation story taking place in a Hungarian village, spanning from a grandfather who had fought in the liberation war of 1848 to a grandson who had emigrated to America just before the turn of the century.
Antal Szerb was only seven years Szentkuthy’s senior but the lives of young men are such that with one aged twenty and the other twenty-seven the rift in knowledge, scope and erudition can appear insurmountable. At least this is how it seemed to Miklós Szentkuthy.
"Frederick the Great and Bach in church at night... They drink, they become delirious, they chatter: Bach is a perverted lecher, a Don Juan, an atheistic libertine; Frederick is a regicidal nihilist, a revolutionary, a traitor. By the morning both have grown quiet; Bach prays with his family, Frederick rides on horseback in front of his soldiers."
The Gravel Pit Lake did well enough in Hungary but, undeservedly, failed to raise any particular storms. It took a German audience to come and throw laurels amid the waves of the lake. Over the past months, directly after its publication in German translation, the book was lauded in superlatives by the most prestigious dailies and literary forums.
Who was Zsuzsa Beney? There are many answers to the question. She was certainly one of the most original voices in recent Hungarian poetry whose originality was vouchsafed by a voice and a theme which was both consciously and unconsciously monolithic.
"A Catalogus Rerum, an "Index of Phenomena" – I am unlikely to free myself of this, the most primitive of my desires. ... is that a sentimental fear of death guiding me, I wonder, a grandpawish fondness for knick-knacks, or some desire for universal knowledge, a Faustian gesture?"