10. 03. 2018. 15:35

Árpád Vickó wins the Balassi Prize for Literary Translation 2018

On Thursday 27 September the Balassi Prize for Literary Translation was awarded to the Serbian translator Árpád Vickó, well-known for eighty translations, including Szerb, Örkény and Polcz. Gabriella Nagy and HLO were at the ceremony.

On Thursday 27 September, in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, an audience took their seats for the presentation ceremony of the second Balassi Prize for Literary Translation. The award, founded in 2017, when it was first given to the Chilean translator Adan Kovacsics, was given by the jury this year to Árpád Vickó.

Vickó was born in 1950 in Novi Sad (Újvidék). He has received multiple awards for his translations, the last one being the Sava Babic Translation Prize. His rich and significant life work consists of more then 80 works. As the first speaker of the day, state-secretary Tamás Menczer, commented in his speech: “his work (…) has contributed to the creation of a common central-European intellectual horizon”. Through this award, founded in 2017 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he continues, we wish to recognise those people, who make it possible “that the world-class Hungarian literature doesn’t remain linguistically isolated, but can claim its deserved place in world literature.”


Otto Tolnai was the second to speak, who in his laudatory speech spoke firstly of a translator’s work, which, as he said, was similar to the rice farmer’s work: “In Japan, I was able to see how uniform the paddy fields were, it was as though the system of waterways had been drawn by some sort of divine water engineer, and yet so unique they were very much part of the local scenery. I enjoyed watching as the rice workers rolled up their large, heavy stones, allowing the water from the streams to flow onto the land, and then rolled the stones back, blocking the little cracks with their rags and jeers.”

Tolnai went on to speak about Vickó’s work, pointing out three in particular: Antal Szerb’s Journey by Moonlight, István Örkény’s One-minute stories and Alaine Polcz’s One Woman in the War. Vickó also significantly devoted himself to translating the Hungarian literature of Vojvodina into Serbian. Tolnai lastly commented on Vickó’s translations of Esterházy, which are perfectly in tune with the author’s delightfully and daringly, yet mathematically precise combinatorial analysis.


At last the receiver of the award took the stage. In his short speech Árpád Vickó stated that everything which exists in culture has come to be through the cooperation of translators. Every form of communication is in itself translation, moreover translation is an essential of life, in particular for small language communities, especially now, as integration has accelerated and entered the foreground, suggesting that there only is one world culture.

The Balassi Prize for Literary Translation has once again gone to the best possible person. Árpád Vickó’s words however, that translation is nothing more than a crossing, a dialogue between languages; the acceptance of the unknown, and the other, so we don’t forget, I’ve left in bold.

See the complete article on Litera.hu by Gabriella Nagy

Translated by Owen Good

Photos: Tibor Illyés / MTI