02. 02. 2012. 09:02

Poem of the month - Dezső Kosztolányi: For Gyula Krúdy

Dezső Kosztolányi found a variety of ways to express his high regard for Gyula Krúdy's person and writings. The ultimate homage is Kosztolányi's visionary poem to Krúdy.

In Rome one night I saw you
rising with awesome power
arc-lights and laurel leaves, triumphal
arches shade projected you up,
silver-templed, prodigal, ecstasy’s lord nabob
dreamy sobbing drunk cimbalom player
wine-soaked at tear-stained old weddings,
once-and-forever ancient dweller-in-songlines,
your father’s wedding, and son’s,
grandfather’s wedding, and grandson’s,
mu-sick for us your age-old sorrows,
go wild , go tender, give-it-all-you’ve-got,
wine-stained face and tear-soaked face,
cigar-ash face watching the free-for-all,
Magyar fare-wailer, brotherly Magyar thou,
as-the-world-burns, the last, and foremost of
Gypsies.

Dezső Kosztolányi found a variety of ways to express his high regard for Gyula Krúdy's person and writings. Along with Ernő Szép and Endre Ady (and somewhat later, Márai) he was one of the few contemporary greats to write appreciations of Krúdy's work (as early as 1910 in the periodical Élet and in 1912 in the weekly A Hét). Other writings by Kosztolányi on Krúdy appeared in 1925 and 1929, according to Gedenyi's Krúdy Bibliography.

As president of the Hungarian PEN Club, Kosztolányi was instrumental in obtaining for Gyula Krúdy a much-needed grant in 1930. The story of this award is told in a note to my translation of Krúdy's Life Is a Dream (Penguin, 2010).

The ultimate homage, however, is Kosztolányi's visionary poem to Krúdy. By calling him "foremost of Gypsies" Kosztolányi goes beyond the stock pathos of the Gypsy musician. He gifts us with a motif that deserves further attention in Krúdy studies: namely, the significance of "Gypsy-related themes" in Gyula Krúdy's oeuvre. I hope this lead will be picked up by Krúdyologists of the future.

This is not the place to go into details, but there is room here for a decent-sized essay. Starting with the biography: Krúdy's beloved paternal grandmother Mária Radics had a huge influence on Krúdy during her long life. As a little boy he spent many hours in her little house behind the family residence where she taught him about cartomancy, fortune telling, folklore, superstitions and old wives' tales. Krúdy paid close and respectful attention to Gypsies all his life as many references in his fiction attest. He wrote journalistic pieces about Gypsy musicians and about attending a Gypsy wedding.

John Batki

Tags: Gyula Krúdy, Dezső Kosztolányi