11. 28. 2006. 09:48

Poet Victor Határ dies

Another legendary figure passed away

93-year-old Hungarian poet Victor (Győző) Határ died on Monday afternoon in St. George’s Hospital in London. Only two weeks ago, Határ, who survived his wife by ten days, took part in a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution at St. James's Palace, where he read an excerpt in English from his reminiscences about the Revolution.

Literary scholarship is still practically at a loss when trying to analyze Határ's oeuvre, incredibly rich in genre, style and sheer quantity. It ranges from bulky novels to nonsensical poems, from pornography to theological-philosophical tracts and monumental mythological dramas. His works are characterized by a practically limitless experimentation with language, which is all the more remarkable since he spent decades of his life outside the language community. 

Victor (Győző) Határ arrived in England after the suppression of the Revolution. In the last decade of his life, he divided his time between Wimbledon and Lake Balaton. Before his death, the author expressed his wish that the property rights of his house in South London should be transferred to the Hungarian state.

Born in 1914, in Gyoma (in South-Eastern Hungary), Határ graduated at the Budapest Technical University as an architect in 1938. In 1943, he was charged with conspiracy against the state for his novel Csodák országa, hátsó Eurázsia (Land of Miracles, Lower Eurasia). He was sentenced to death, but the death penalty was later commuted to 12, then to 5 years' imprisonment. In prison he became a chance participant in a mutiny. After his release, he was sent to a work battalion from which he managed to escape in the autumn of 1944. 

He met his future wife Piroska Prágai in 1956, and after the suppression of the Revolution, they left the country together. They settled in London, where Határ started to work for the Hungarian department of the BBC (1957–1976). After his retirement, he worked for Radio Free Europe. Besides that, he was the official tutor of the British state department, introducing British diplomats to Hungarian language and culture (1960–1985) together with his wife, who translated many of his works into English.

In 1967, the Határ couple moved into their South-London apartment, where they often hosted  Hungarian émigré friends and organized literary evenings. In 1970 and 1978, Határ went on two reading tours in the States. In the following decade, he published a new book practically every year. He visited his native Hungary for the first time in 1989, and he gradually became known (although not widely read) as one of the most important figures of Hungarian literature in emigration besides György Faludy and György Ferdinandy.

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