Ten works of fiction and five poetry collections remain in the running for this year’s Best Translated Book Awards. Berlin-Hamlet by Szilárd Borbély, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet is also shortlisted in the poetry section.
The poet whose first two volumes initiated a radical process of renewal within modern Hungarian poetry was born on December 8 1938. What we know about him is minimal: he was born and educated in Budapest, and was taught during his grammar school years by the poet Ágnes Nemes Nagy, who so to speak introduced him to literary society.
Three Hungarian novels have been selected by UNESCO to be recommended on the organization's website to publishers and potential sponsors for translation: Aranysárkány (Golden Dragon) by Dezso Kosztolányi , Hollóido (Time of the Crow) by István Szilágyi and Napraforgó (Sunflower) by Gyula Krúdy.
As Erno Szív I write two types of feuilleton, one is about 40 to 45 lines of rambling stuff that appears six times a month. The other is more like a short story in a national literary weekly. I wrote the children's novel against depression. It worked - I can recommend the method to anybody.
Would I be willing to write a review of this ground-breaking anthology of Hungarian literature in English translation, the editor of HLO asked. "No" was my instant reply, I simply couldn't. It would be simpler to write about why I could not. A foolish reflex. Why not write about why not was the response.
"There was no doubt of it, the dark coat on the rack could mean only one thing: a guest had arrived, an unusual guest at that, because the coat was stern-looking, grim, quite unlike the coat that usually hung on that rack, so shabby, and threadbare I didn't even feel like doing what I usually did when left alone with strange coats in the hallway and go through the pockets and, if I found some loose change, cling to the wall, listen for noises, wait for the right moment, and then steal a few fillers or forints."
In common with most British schoolchildren, I didn't receive much grounding in Hungarian literature. Even when, in my teenage years, I started exploring the literature of other (and in those days Hungary was particularly 'other') European cultures, Hungary was conspicuous by its absence.