|2. Since the Revolution of 1956||CONTENTS||GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY|
The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 and the subsequent Treaty of Trianon in 1920 have not only created new national states in the Danube Basin, but have also put an end to the unity of national literature with Budapest as its centre. Until then, a separate literary tradition existed only in Transylvania, which supplied during the centuries a constant stream of writers with a well-defined Transylvanian identity. Consequently in 1920 it was only Transylvania which had enough traditions to fall back on. The scope of literary life there, in spite of its present restrictions by the Ceauşescu regime, has warranted separate treatment. No minority in the other successor states was numerous enough or had substantial enough regional traditions on which to built a separate irodalmi tudat after World War I. But half a century is a long time; it was certainly long enough for the emergence of an almost autonomous Hungarian literature in Yugoslavia, the northern part of which, comprising the Bácska and part of the Bánát, has a Hungarian population of over 500,000. Known now as Vajdaság* (formerly Délvidék) in Hungarian, it was the birthplace of many excellent authors in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, although it never developed a regional tradition. Cultural institutions, such as theatres, libraries, publishing houses, or a university, whose counterparts in Transylvania have been pillars of continuity, were largely absent. Yet in the late 1920s a local literature began to emerge. The early writers, apart from insignificant local authors, were all political refugees from Hungary who had taken part in the 1919 revolution. These authors attempted to continue their avant-garde experimental literature, but were largely unsuccessful, mainly because local taste was unprepared for it.
A literary life, however, began to take shape with the launching of Writing from Vajdaság* (1929-30) and its successor Kalangya* (1932-44), both edited by Kornél Szenteleky (1893-1933), who, in addition to being largely responsible for the organization of literary life, was the best local author. His main achievements as a writer are his vignettes which capture delicate, fleeting moods. His novel Isola Bella (Kolozsvár, 1931) is a series of impressionistic vignettes united by a central idea. Of the other authors who rallied around Kalangya, perhaps Zoltán Csuka (1901-1984), whose early poetry showed a strong impact of activism, is of some importance.
Publication of books by local authors started in 1933, and in 1934 a new periodical, Bridge (1934-41, 1945- ) was established. Both Bridge and Kalangya were confiscated several times by the censor during the late 1930s. Furthermore, Bridge, being a radical periodical, was suppressed in 1941, when Délvidék was recaptured by Hungary. The belletristic significance of Bridge emerged only in the late 1950s, because the pre-war Bridge was mainly concerned with non-fiction and in any case it did not boast a circle of talented fiction writers. As Yugoslavia launched out in 1948 on its own road to socialism, there was no Stalinism there with its ugly side-effects for literature. In addition, the Hungarian ethnic minority gradually acquired all the rights pertaining to its status. Milestones of this development in cultural affairs were the establishment of a department of Hungarian studies at the University of Novi Sad (1959) at Újvidék, which became the centre of Hungarian cultural life. The Forum Publishing House (1957) publishes a great number of books which are also avidly read in Hungary, as the Yugoslav interpretation of socialist doctrines has left a much broader scope for diverging opinions than has the Hungarian or that of any other socialist regime. Needless to say, literature has benefited a great deal from this liberal attitude.
A major figure of Vajdaság literature was Ervin Sinkó (1898-1967), who was professor of Hungarian literature at the University of Novi Sad. He started his career on the fringes of Kassák’s circle, writing avant-garde poetry, and shared the fate of the communist expatriates after the revolution of 1919. He lived in Vienna, Moscow, and Paris. His main work, written in the 1930s, is the novel Optimists (2 vols., Újvidék, 1953-5), describing the 1919 revolution. Hailed as a major socialist novel, he was invited to the Soviet Union with a view of publishing the manuscript there. No publication was forthcoming; but what the visit did produce was Sinkó’s day-to-day account of his negotiations with Soviet apparatchiks, a significant document on Soviet cultural life in the mid-1930s (The Novel of a Novel, 2 vols., Újvidék, 1961); it is a detached account of the catastrophic collapse then taking place in the Soviet literary life, and is one of the few eyewitness accounts ever to come forth from the hermetically sealed world of Stalin’s dictatorship.
The present era of Vajdaság literature started with the foundation of a new periodical, New Symposium (1964- ), which launched many promising young authors whose significance is no longer regional. The profile of New Symposium has been shaped by the neo-avant-garde experimenting of its contributors. Both Bridge and New Symposium have also secured contributors from Hungary; consequently manuscripts which are unlikely to be published by Budapest periodicals for political reasons get a chance to appear in print. The latest venture is Message (1971- ). It would be too early to attempt an appreciation of this recent literature; a few writers have appeared however, whose works deserve to be read by others besides the critics. Writers already with a reputation include the poet Ottó Tolnai (1940- ), whose experimental texts (e.g. The Death of Gogol, Újvidék, 1972) show ingenuity, and the novelist Nándor Gion (1941-2002), whose Flowery Soldier (Újvidék, 1973), shows marked originality, in spite of its traditional narrative form.
While the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia is more numerous (about one million), its present literature is less significant than that of the Vajdaság. The origin of Hungarian literature there was plagued with the same initial difficulties as was that in the Vajdaság, namely the lack of relevant local traditions. Writers had to fight hard to establish a regional identity, and after 1920 the majority of the intellectuals left the newly-created state of Czechoslovakia. Those remaining belonged to three main groups-avant-garde writers who were dispersed in Hungary in 1919 and who emigrated to Vienna, Yugoslavia, or Czechoslovakia but remained in contact with each other in the various successor states; writers committed to the Hungarian cause who were eventually either silenced or expelled, like László Mécs who moved to Hungary; and finally the socialists, who were tolerated for a time, but eventually were denied citizenship and were thus forced to emigrate. The literature emerging in the early 1930s did not air the grievances of minority status, but instead was largely inspired by social reform. Radical writers and students organized the Sickle Movement (1924-34), which at first sympathized with the népi movement in Hungary in turning its attention to the plight of the peasantry, but later turned Communist. Their views were expressed in The Path (1931-6), the organ of the Communists, edited by Zoltán Fábry (1897-1970), who became the leading author in the era following World War II. Fábry’s ideal was a mixture of documentary fiction and sociological reportage, which he termed emberirodalom (human literature). Moral considerations were paramount in his polemical essays, in which he also occasionally propounded sectarian views. Fábry’s achievement as an indefatigable organizer of literary life in the Felvidék for half a century has secured him a place in the history of Hungarian literature.
Poets of the inter-war period include László Ölvedi (1903-31) who, like Mécs, set out in Ady’s footsteps and wrote mainly about the plight of the Hungarian minority. Dezső Győry (1900-74) was a prolific poet whose Hungarians with a New Outlook (Berlin, 1927) was the best example of committed poetry written in Czechoslovakia. Fine specimens of avant-garde poetry were written by Imre Forbáth (1898-1967), whose Woodcutters (Pozsony, 1930) was praised by contemporary critics. Dezső Vozári (1904-72) wrote intellectual poetry; his volumes (Black Flag, Kassa,1922; Blowing the Siren is More Beautiful, Pozsony, 1935; and Either/Or, Moscow, 1944) are noteworthy both for their conception and for their creative inspiration. The fate of these poets, however, show the uncertainties of writing minority literature. Ölvedi emigrated to Paris, and died in Hungary. Győry was repatriated to Hungary after World War II, and wrote historical romances about his native land; Forbáth emigrated to London, and, although he returned to Czechoslovakia after the war, wrote nothing more; and Vozári joined the ‘Muscovites’, to return with the advancing Soviet Army. Others died in labour camps, or disappeared without trace in the whirlpool of the mid-century.
Although there is no shortage of writers of fiction, most of them could never shed their provincialism. After World War II Stalinism which was perhaps more acute in Czechoslovakia and lasted longer than its Hungarian variant forced them into the strait-jacket of schematism. An example of this is supplied by the career of Viktor Egri (1898-1982), whose autobiographical novel The Sun Rises (Pozsony, 1928) is an inspired piece of writing. In the early 1950s he was persuaded to rectify his ‘ideological mistakes’, as was Déry in Hungary; but, unlike Déry, he rather pathetically rewrote this and another novel.
The war years were unusually long in Czechoslovakia for the Hungarian ethnic minority. Hungarians were severely reprimanded for their enthusiastic welcome of the Hungarian Army in 1938, when Southern Slovakia was returned to Hungary, and for their collaboration with the Hungarian authorities until the Soviet Army occupied Slovakia in 1944-5. Reprisals included large-scale deportation of Hungarians from Csallóköz* to Southern Bohemia, and forced repatriation to Hungary. In addition, all inhabitants of Hungarian descent were deprived of their citizenship, all Hungarian schools were closed, and no publication in Hungarian was allowed. A new era started with the Communist takeover in 1948, but then the strait-jacket of socialist realism was forced on all writers, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian alike. After a long period of Stalinism, conditions improved in the early 1960s, and by the time of the Prague Spring in 1968 the organs of Hungarian literature were securely re-established. Today there is a Hungarian language publishing house in Pozsony (Madách Publishing House), and a monthly, The Literary Review* (1958), and there is at least one literary supplement to daily newspapers. Departments for Hungarian studies are in existence at Prague and Bratislava universities, and a new wave of authors, not burdened by the strictures of socialist realism, appeared in the late 1960s, of whom the poet Árpád Tőzsér (1935- ) has won the esteem of critics.
Very little is known about cultural life in Kárpátalja, which has formed part of the Soviet Union since the end of World War II, and is called the Subcarpathian District of the Ukraine. The Hungarian population is about 200,000. Hungarian is taught at the University of Uzhgorod; certain books, mainly translation of Russian works, are published, but there is no evidence of the existence of a literary periodical. The only poet whose name was known outside the region was Vilmos Kovács (1927-77). Whatever cultural life exists there is noticeably limited in appeal and significance.
After World War II many Hungarian Jews, not wishing to return to Hungary, settled in Israel. Their exact number is not known but, as it includes those Hungarian Jews who came from historical Hungary, it must be considerable. This first generation of settlers is attached to its native language, and consequently there exists a literature written in Hungarian in Israel, including translations into Hungarian. There are Hungarian periodical publications which carry original fiction and poetry, including The New East (1948- ), and The Week (1955- ). Most of the authors belong to the older generation who had published works before settling in Israel. The doyen of Israeli Hungarian literature was Illés Kaczér (1887-1980), who lived first in Czechoslovakia and London before settling in Israel. His main work is a historical novel, The Jewish Legend, in four parts (Fear Not My Servant Jacob, Tel Aviv, 1953; The Siege of Jericho, Tel Aviv, 1954; Three Are the Stars, Tel Aviv, 1955; and The Jew of Lajos Kossuth, Tel Aviv, 1956); it is an ambitious family novel, set in Hungary at the beginning of the nineteenth century, with a host of well observed characters, both Jews and Gentiles. His other works include successful plays (e.g. Siamese Twins, Pozsony, 1925,) and a visionary novel about the first settlers in Israel (The Dream Settler, Vienna, 1923). Other authors include István Barzilay (1906-81), originally a journalist on the staff of The New East, which then appeared in Transylvania. The main themes of his novels are the holocaust, and the birth of the Jewish state (e.g. Abyss, Tel Aviv, 1969). Margit Fürth (1891-1974) wrote mainly about Jewish life in Hungary before World War I (e.g. Mary, Mary, Tel Aviv, 1965). Ervin Abádi (1918-1979) writes in both Hungarian and Hebrew, and Ferenc Kishont (1924- ) became a well-known humorist under his Israeli name Efrajim Kishon.
Finally, there is a significant literature written in the Hungarian diaspora which poses a special problem. First of all, writers working in complete isolation without a reading public cannot create a literary life in the traditional sense, although there are periodicals, broadcasting stations, and additional facilities offered by literary societies, all of which provide outlets for their works. While established writers who have left their country may usually be grouped with the trend to which they belonged at the time of their departure, there are writers who have either become bilingual, writing in Hungarian and another language, or who have switched entirely to a new language as their medium. In addition, if and when a writer returns to his native country he becomes once more involved in literary life there, and his absence seems merely to have been an episode in his life. How far can such writers be regarded as part of émigré Hungarian literature? There are obviously no clear cut answers; in some cases it is easy to make a decision, in others it is well nigh impossible. Moreover, because of the particular situation of these writers there is no consensus about their merit, since criticism in the diaspora is spasmodic and the publication of a work is no proof of any literary standard, as most of the authors publish their works at their own expenses.
Yet ‘Western’ Hungarian literature does exist. There are Hungarian writers’ colonies in Munich, Paris, London, New York, and Toronto; solitary writers live all over the world; there are periodicals, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, free universities, learned societies, libraries, and meetings with readers. The genesis of this literature is in political dissent and, apart from a few writers who left Hungary for private reasons, there have been three main waves of political refugees since World War II which make up the spectrum of ‘Western’ Hungarian literature. The first wave left Hungary in 1944-5, and consisted of intellectuals who were either actively involved with the wartime régime and were afraid of persecution, or could not bring themselves to accept Russian occupation. The second wave came in 1947-8, and comprised intellectuals who had been disappointed in their hopes of a democratic transformation of Hungarian society. The third wave, the largest and containing the highest proportion of literary intellectuals, left Hungary immediately after the suppression of the revolution in 1956.
Very little has been written on the literature of the Hungarian diaspora; consequently only a sketchy survey can be presented here. After World War II Hungarians who had left their country found themselves in camps for displaced persons, mainly in Germany awaiting permits to emigrate to the Americas and Australia. Short-lived periodicals, usually reproduced from typescripts, mushroomed, and their contributors, besides a host of occasional writers, included authors with established reputations (e.g. Albert Wass). Most of the writing in these periodicals was born of the shock caused by the havoc of the war and its aftermath, and contains very little which is more than documentary evidence for the patterns of human behaviour induced by the inferno of war. The best example of this type of literature is supplied by the early novels of a young authoress, Kriszta Arnóthy (1929- ), who, having survived the siege of Budapest as a young girl, escaped from Hungary. Her autobiographical novels Wanda (Munich, 1950), and I am Fifteen and I Do Not Want to Die (Cologne, 1952) are crudely-written and desperate accounts of the meaningless suffering which caused the total collapse of traditional Christian morality in young people who were faced with the bleak prospect of their lives being disrupted beyond repair. I am Fifteen and 1 Do Not Want to Die, having been translated into French, caused a minor literary sensation as a novel written with overwhelming sincerity, and was awarded the Prix Vérité (1955). Arnóthy’s later works reveal a more polished penmanship, but none of the penetrating force of her first writing.
The periodicals which now constitute the framework of literary life were launched in the harsh conditions of the early 1950s. The Catholic Review (1949- ), published in Rome, has continued the traditions of the neo-Catholic trend of the 1930s, and is now one of the leading reviews, although belles-lettres do not feature prominently in it. The New Hungarian Way (1950-6) is perhaps the only periodical among those now defunct which carried noteworthy poetry and fiction. Horizon was launched in 1950 by a handful of young intellectuals whose sympathies lay with the népi movement of the inter-war period. By the mid-1950s it had established its present reputation as the leading literary review in the West, in spite of a split among its editors in 1958, when the majority launched New Horizon* (1958-1989), and two of its former editors carried on with Horizon until their return to Hungary, where Horizon eventually ceased publication in the early 1960s.
While Horizon in its early years provided a platform primarily for political writers, it also offered an outlet to a generation of young poets who had not published previously in Hungary. Of these Gábor Bikich (1923- ) is the oldest. Bikich’s poems are often monologues in free verse; behind a façade of feigned sarcasm he laments over human suffering, with frequent allusions to old Hungarian literature (e.g. ‘Sors Bona’, 1956; ‘Sermo Supra Sepulchrum’, 1957). In the mid-1960s he withdrew from literary life. János Csokits (1928- ) is a poet who apparently enjoys using pure rhymes in his often short, epigrammatic poems at a time when most poets are reluctant to employ rhymes at all. Of his longer poems, ‘Twelve Songs for Male Voice’ (1953, 1960), while recalling in a nostalgic tone the landscape of childhood’s lost paradise, reveals his quiet resignation to living in an indifferent universe, echoing, perhaps, contemporary existentialist thought. Csokits’s outcry against the indifference of another kind, the consumer mentality of the Western world after the 1956 revolution, in ‘If I Tell You What Happened to Us …’ (1959), is full of bitter irony and defiance, and shows his poetic skill at his best. Áron Kibédi Varga (1930- ) has been writing experimental poetry in basic sentence-structures with a multitude of adverbs but devoid of ornamentation or similes; he uses metaphors made up of unexpected compounds coined by himself, thereby achieving both economy and austerity, the main attractions of his poetry (Without and Within, Washington, 1963; You, Washington, 1973). In prose the name of András Domahidy (1920- ) comes to mind; his novels (e.g. Indian Summer, Rome, 1969) recall the immediate post-war years in a manner which could not be attempted by his fellow-writers in Hungary.
The profile of Horizon, however, has not been shaped by the poets who made their debut in it, but rather by those contributors who already had their reputations established in Hungary, and whose writings hallmarked its early period and have been lending weight and authority to the periodical ever since. Of these, Zoltán Szabó and László Cs. Szabó (1905-85) are the most prominent. Cs. Szabó was a prolific author of essays, short stories, radio plays, and poems; his long literary career was a bridge between the great first generation of Nyugat authors, under whose watchful eyes his early writings had been published, and the younger writers who began to write abroad and who, consequently, have had little or no chance of coming into contact with the mainstream of Hungarian literature. Cs. Szabó was a frequent contributor to Nyugat and, together with Halász and Szerb, he introduced a style of essay, both polished and witty, in which he expounded his views on diverse subjects, wearing his knowledge lightly. Cs. Szabó’s first major success came with a travelogue about England, Crossing at Dover (1937). His other books published in Hungary include Letters from Exile (1937), Hungarian Spectator (1939), Europe in Arms (1939), and In Transylvania (1940), all of which display his best qualities as an essayist. In 1948 he left Hungary and, after a brief stay in Italy, he moved to London. The books he wrote abroad include further travelogues (e.g. Winter Journey, Munich, 1955, or Roman Music, Munich, 1970, which is permeated with the warmth of personal reminiscences). He was a frequent contributor to all major periodicals published outside Hungary and many of his essays are still scattered in these publications, although a collection of his best essays on art and literature has already been published in Hungary (Occasion, 1982). One of his latest books, containing interviews with and by him (Between Two Mirrors, Munich, 1977), is devoted to the vindication of the alternative provided by living in exile. The subject-matter of his short stories often concerns the plight of the uprooted existence of displaced persons (e.g. Mercy, Rome, 1955 and, Bleeding Phantoms, Munich, 1979). Cs. Szabó’s presence in literary life is strongly felt: he was undoubtedly the leading author among exiled writers.
Apart from Márai, who has chosen isolation from all groups of exiled writers, there is at least one major author, Győző Határ (1914- ) whose output of belles lettres commands respect by its sheer volume. He has lived in London since 1956, but started his literary career in Hungary immediately after the war with experiments in avant-garde technique (e.g. his novel Heliáne, 1948). As he was soon silenced, the full scale of his astonishing verbal faculty became apparent only after the publication of the works he had not been allowed to publish in Hungary. The limits of experimenting with language have always fascinated him; there are innumerable coinages of words in his texts, the meanings of which are self-explanatory within their context, but which when taken out fall flat and lose their semantic content. This is all part of his craft; besides being able to adapt and absorb any layer of the language, his protean relationship to language is a clear refutation of the view that artistic creation is circumscribed if the artist lives outside the community to which he addresses himself. In The Tower of Babel (Stockholm, 1966) Határ recreates the biblical myth, extending its significance beyond its given proportions in partly archaic and partly anachronistic language, with a multitude of strange creatures whose vulgarity recall the figures of Breughel or Rabelais.
Határ’s poetic vision is universal; his predicament is a source of strength: mankind has been living in exile ever since Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden, and language is its only compensation. Határ’s plays, none of which has ever been performed, are grotesque sublimations of basic human situations, (e.g. The Rope World takes place on huge ropes hanging in the universe), with an eye on the totality of experience. Határ may be playful when he pursues his linguistic games, but when he dramatizes imaginary, legendary, or mythological stories he is in deadly earnest: men are miserable creatures deserving his and the reader’s pity. One of his latest works Golgheloghi (London, 1976), consists of a series of playlets about the symbolic figure Golgheloghi.
Tamás Tűz (1916-1992), like Határ, left Hungary in 1956, yet his poetic career, also like Határ’s, is a continuation of his first works. A priest by profession, and now living in Canada, Tűz was first influenced by Babits, who stimulated his keen interest in technique. His poetry, however, matured only after he had left Hungary; his idyllic world was shattered after the loss of Eden. Surrealistic imagery, a fragmentary view of the world, and a Nature degraded into sullen objects are the main characteristics of his latest verse. The cycle, Angel, Say it At Least Partly! (1973) is perhaps his most significant poetic achievement. Tűz is also a writer of short stories, many of which are inspired by his war experiences; he was an army chaplain and a prisoner of war during World War II (Thirty Days of Honeymoon, Toronto, 1973).
Hungarian literature in the West, which until 1956 could have been regarded as a manifestation of political opposition by a dying breed, was powerfully resuscitated through the impact of the new refugees, and the world-wide attention Hungary received during the uprising in 1956. Those members of the Hungarian Writers’ Union who had left Hungary reorganized The Hungarian Writers’ Association Abroad in 1957, and re-launched its official publication, Literary Gazette (1957-1989), in collaboration with their fellow-writers already abroad. The first Congress of the Writers’ Association (Paris, 1958) was an important event; over a hundred Hungarian writers living abroad gathered together, including even writers who belonged to none of the three waves of political emigration, and Hungarian-born Arthur Koestler became its honorary president.
While the Writers’ Association, which lost its importance in the early 1960s and disintegrated, had engaged in political opposition to the Kádár regime, Literary Gazette has provided an outlet for a multitude of writers, carrying short stories, poetry, and quality book reviews. Edited by Tibor Méray (1924- ) and novelist Endre Enczi (1903-74), first in London and since 1962 in Paris, it is now primarily a forum of bilingual writers of the older generation, including authors like English and Hungarian novelist Pál Tábori (1908-74), English humorist György Mikes (1912-1987), essayist Pá1 Ignotus (1901-78), its first editor-in-chief abroad, political writer György Pálóczi-Horváth (1908-73), and the poet György Faludy. As most of these authors were involved in the writers’ revolt in Hungary, many of them related their personal reminiscences. Towering above other memoirs is an account of the show-trial in the ‘Rajk affair’* by Béla Szász (1910-1999). His book Volunteers for the Gallows (Brussels, 1963) is written not only with a high degree of detachment and unique insight into the manipulative techniques of the police state, but is also a record of one man’s single-minded will to survive and to remain undefeated. Szász’s book is a major achievement in documentary fiction.
In fiction proper, the experiences of the 1950s remained understandably the dominant theme for many authors and for a long time. Gusztáv Rab (1901-63), a struggling author in the 1930s, persecuted by both Fascists and Communists, finally came into his own after he had settled in France. Journey into the Blue (Paris, 1959) is largely autobiographical; it is an account in sombre language of the deportations of the 1950s*. His next novel, A Room in Budapest (Paris, 1960), describes the aftermath of the revolution. It is an uncomplicated story of one morning in a Budapest block of flats the relationship of a small group of individuals has been redefined by their pattern of behaviour during the revolution. Rab avoids all emphasis, and he successfully creates the feeling of weariness after the revolution. Critics, particularly in England, have considered Sabaria (1963) his best work. This novel develops the theme of the conflict of Church and State in Communist-ruled Hungary in the early 1950s. A local saint appears in a vision to a woman, who, when she tells about it, is inevitably arrested by the political police who are eager to discover sinister ‘plots’ laid by the ‘imperialists’ in the uncanny pronouncements of the old seamstress. Subtly written and continually inventive, it is a novel to which no summary of its plot could do justice.
An author whose treatment of contemporary themes has made him popular is Péter Halász (1922- ). Of his numerous novels, Tartars on Széna Square (New York, 1962) is devoted to the revolution, Mr Compatriot (Munich, 1965) describes a visit to Budapest by an expatriate, and 2nd Avenue (Toronto, 1967) is about how ordinary folk ‘make good’ in New York and how their children are able to leave the Hungarian ghetto around 2nd Avenue. Halász writes in easy-flowing sentences; he knows how to build up suspense, but unfortunately is not always free from melodramatic effects.
Sándor Lénárd (1910-72) also kept in touch with the Literary Gazette, proving its cohesive power among Hungarian writers abroad. Lénárd’s contribution would be an exotic touch to any literature. Born in Budapest, educated in Vienna, he eventually settled in a remote corner of Brazil after the war. He busied himself with healing the Indians, writing stories, playing Bach on the organ, and studying the classics. He proved his exceptional expertise in Latin when he translated A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh into Latin; it became an instant success, and was set as a Latin textbook for schools (Winnie ille Pu, Săo Paolo,1958). His autobiographical Valley of the Latin Bear (Stuttgart, 1963) was first published in German, and it was only in the late 1960s that his works appeared in his native Hungary.
A group of former political prisoners established the National Guardian (1956- ) in Munich, a monthly which has come to enjoy the largest circulation among refugees. It is edited by Tibor Tollas (1920-1997), whose early poetry was characterized by effective rhetoric. His later verse has, however, shown a remarkable mellowing of his formerly rigid, clattering voice (Compassionate Trees, Munich, 1975). One of the chief contributors to the National Guardian, Áron Gábor (1911-82), who had been deported by the Russians to Siberia, where he spent fifteen years first in labour camps, and later as a menial worker, wrote an impressive trilogy about his experiences in the Gulag Archipelago (East of Man, Munich, 1967; Rectangular Freedom, Munich, 1968; and Men Aged Centuries, Los Angeles, 1971), the effectiveness of which is occasionally marred by flashy style.
Last but not least, mention should be made of the generation ‘56, which occupies a special position within the spectrum of refugee literature. It includes authors who were old enough to have absorbed their native cultural heritage by the time they left Hungary in 1956, but were also young enough to take root in foreign countries. Many of them are bilingual, but usually write poetry only in Hungarian. Open-minded to experimentation and to cultural cross-currents, they are firmly rooted now in both their native and their adopted country’s intellectual traditions.
The best example of such literary activity is provided by the authors loosely associated with Hungarian Workshop (1962- ), a periodical devoted entirely to experimental literature and art. While they have resurrected the traditions of the Hungarian avant-garde and set out in the footsteps of Kassák, Szentkuthy, Weöres, and Határ, they also participate in the international avant-garde movement, and issue a French periodical, d’atelier (1972- ). The editors of Hungarian Workshop are Tibor Papp (1936- ), originally a poet, and Pá1 Nagy (1934- ), who started by writing conventional short stories. Both produce now szöveg (text) only, which is an intermediary genre between poetry, fiction, and art. Szöveg literature, which may include any type of vendégszöveg (borrowed text) such as advertisements, slogans, quotations, fragments of pictorial representations, or in fact any type of signs, is devoid of any conventional message and is expected to make an impact on the reader solely through visual perception. The editors who design, make the typographical layout, set, and print the magazine in Paris, also publish volumes by fellow poets, an enterprise which greatly assists new departures in a literary life where authors are frequently compelled to bear the cost of publication because of the lack of a wide circle of readers.
Of the poets who are connected with Hungarian Workshop, József Bakucz (1929-1990) is the oldest. He discarded the traditional technique for more penetrating self-analysis and exploration. He lives in New York, and his volumes include Eclipse (Paris, 1968) and Petrified Sky (Paris, 1973). On the other hand, György Vitéz (1933- ), who lives in Canada, employs traditional forms whenever it pleases him; his main assets are his scepticism, and his sensitivity to his special predicament, that of being a Hungarian poet in America (American Story, Paris, 1975). László Kemenes Géfin (1937- ), discovered by the editors of Hungarian Workshop, also lives in Canada. His volumes Frostflower (Paris, 1966), Zenith (Munich, 1969), and Pagan Diaspora (Toronto, 1974) indicate his development from the learning of his craft to the use of fragmentary images and allusions to old Hungarian literature, wedged into the flow of sensory process, which makes his poetry a curious hybrid of archaism and modernity.
István Siklós (1936-1991) is a lonely poet who stands aloof from his contemporaries. Influenced by Buddhist thought, his vision of primeval destruction is expressed in an imagery both awe-inspiring and grandiose, he uses sonorous and solemn language and a type of lettrisme to underline units of delivery. He lives in London, and his volumes include manwith5strings (London, 1968). Elemér Horváth (1933- ) lived first in Rome, and has been living in the USA since 1962; he is a manual labourer. Horváth’s first volume, The Face of Everyday (Rome, 1962), was acclaimed as a significant new voice, and not without reason it was mature poetry purged of rhetoric and sentimentality. Until recently he wrote infrequently, and produced few poems; in some he experimented with free associations and écriture automatique in an attempt to fight off the angst of existence, to protect his ego from a burdensome past and the blind alley of the future. In other poems, myth-making and scepticism are blended in a fluctuating balance, yet they preserve states of mind with precision and depth (From the Diary of a White Negro, Paris, 1976).
Other poets who have already made their presence felt in literary life include Lajos Major-Zala (1930- ), who has lived in Switzerland since 1950 and has successfully transplanted a kind of népi tradition into his poetry (e.g. Prayerless Prayer, Munich, 1971; or Breaking the Spell, Munich, 1975). Imre Máté (1934- ) has drawn on archaic popular beliefs for inspiration (White Tempest, Munich, 1966), occasionally with excessive zeal but always with genuine conviction. He lives in Germany. Ádám Makkai (1935- ) is a professor of linguistics at Chicago University; he combines linguistic playfulness with Dionysiac upsurges of energy, followed by sudden fits of despair or the grimaces of an adolescent (K2 = 13, Cleveland, 1970). The main source of inspiration in the poetry of István Keszei (1935-84) is a feeling of guilt. His poetry frequently appeared in New Horizon and Literary Gazette; his volume of selected verse is Angelic Assault (Rome, 1979). He lived by occasional work in Paris. Géza Thinsz (1934-1990) has not come to terms with the oddity of being a Hungarian poet in Sweden; consequently self-irony and tongue-in-the-cheek attitudes to life are an essential feature in his poetry, in addition to a delightful eroticism. His latest volumes include Shadow Theatre (Stockholm, 1970) and Borderland (Stockholm, 1976). Another poet living in Scandinavia, Vince Sulyok (1932- ), after the initial shock has curiously adapted to the mystic atmosphere of Nordic scenes and men, and developed a yearning for sunshine, light, and human contact.
While political poetry, or ‘engaged writing’, is hardly cultivated by the generation ‘56, their declaration of independence from bankrupt ideas was programmatically worded in ‘A Formal Application to the UN by Sándor András Autonomous Republic’. Written by Sándor András (1934- ), who lives in Washington, the poem is a unilateral declaration of independence by a generation which has lost all its political illusions. András’s volumes include Running Oasis, (London, 1970) and Harangue (London, 1981). György Gömöri (1934- ) is a poet who writes with a sense of a secret mission, of one who belongs to the wandering tribe of the scribes. He lives in England, and his latest volume is Letter from a Declining Empire (Munich, 1976).
Generation ‘56 has not produced significant prose writers. There were a few gifted short story writers in the early 1960s, who fell silent, either out of apathy or because they were discouraged by the bleak prospects for publishing longer works. There is, however, a single exception György Ferdinandy (1935- ), who lives in Puerto Rico. Nostalgia for a torturing past is the key motif in his prose; his words are resonant with painful memories. He is a master of evoking blurred images in a few sentences which are often rhythmic, always rich in texture, and which offer no relief for the tension caused by the havoc which dispersed generation ‘56. His works are: On the Assembly Line (Munich, 1965), Professor Nemezio Gonzales Delivers a Speech to the Animals of the Black Forest (Paris, 1970), and The Sea at Valencia (Munich, 1975).
In conclusion, the critical activity of Pál Albert* (1935- ), the only significant critic generation ‘56 has produced, should be mentioned. He lives in Paris, and without his analytical reviews which have been published in periodicals in the past twenty years writing this last chapter would have been a far more tiresome task.
|2. Since the Revolution of 1956||CONTENTS||GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY|