09. 12. 2016. 07:50

Goodbye to HLO: editor’s note

As I am saying goodbye after twelve years, to take up post at Magvető Publishing, I will continue to do what I had been doing at HLO: to bring the attention of readers worldwide to authors who are not so well known as yet but who deserve to be translated.

In 2004, when online literary magazines were a relatively new phenomenon, I was working for the first Hungarian literary website, litera.hu. Litera pioneered a wholly new approach to the trends, works, and figures of Hungarian literature―an approach that made literature the concern of a wide audience, far beyond literati. As the site became increasingly successful, the owners decided to launch an English version of it, of which I became the editor. To date, HLO has remained a sister site in the Litera network, but it gradually started to develop an independent life, and became the best known and most up-to-date internet resource on Hungarian literature.

It was quite an adventure, in many senses. The flexibility of the medium, the unboundedness in space and time made it incredibly easy to give a taste of what is happening in the Hungarian literary scene, and to sample works of authors unknown to the world. Also, there was immediate feedback―a publisher, the editor of a journal or a translator got enthusiastic about an author whose piece they read on HLO; or, conversely, readers were quite unimpressed by an author I personally was passionate about. So my work at HLO required a continuous switching of perspectives: identifying with both the insider and the outsider point of view.

In these twelve years, I was happy to report a number of success stories for Hungarian literature in English translation: László Krasznahorkai’s Man Booker Prize; the Best Translated Book Award given to his translators, George Szirtes (Satan Tango) and Ottilie Mulzet (Seiobo There Below), two years in a row; and the positive reception of Péter Nádas, György Dragomán, Attila Bartis, as well as of Hungarian classical authors, rediscovered or newly translated: Sándor Márai, Antal Szerb, Miklós Szentkuthy, Dezső Kosztolányi, and Miklós Bánffy.

Such stellar successes do not happen overnight. Krasznahorkai’s Satan Tango, or, for that matter, Kertész’s Fatelessness (the book for which the only Hungarian Nobel Prize winning author received the award), were translated into English decades after their publication in Hungarian. These success stories are often preceded by long years of writing amid less than favorable circumstances, perhaps utter neglect (and it is only in hindsight that the writer knows it was worth it, after all), and also require the ongoing work of a host of dedicated individuals―translators, editors, and publishers. As I am saying goodbye after twelve years, to take up post at Magvető Publishing, I will continue to do what I had been doing at HLO: to bring the attention of readers worldwide to authors who are less well known as yet but who deserve to be translated. Magvető is the leading publisher of Hungarian literature, the publisher of Esterházy, Kertész and Krasznahorkai, as well as of Ádám Bodor, György Dragomán, György Spiró, Miklós Szentkuthy, Antal Szerb, Krisztina Tóth and Sándor Tar―to mention just a few internationally known authors.

HLO will continue with new editors, Dóra Szekeres, editor of litera.hu, and Mark Baczoni, a young translator of Hungarian literature into English who already has two books to his name: Stories of Rome by Alexander Lenard and The Fourteen Carat Car by Jenő Rejtő. The new editors are full of exciting ideas and great plans, and I wish them good luck for the decades to come!

Ágnes Orzóy