From the Earliest Times to the mid-1970's


‘Oh beata Ungheria se non si lascia
Più malmenare!’

     Dante: Paradiso XIX: 142-3

This is the first full-length history of Hungarian literature to be written in English since before the First World War. Six years in preparation, it is the work of one of the few authorities living outside Hungary. It explores the rich variety of Hungarian literature from the beginnings to the emerging authors of the 1970s, and is the first work to include material on writers who have left their country for political reasons.

The author gives a general outline of the stages of growth of Hungarian literature with brief descriptions of the major intellectual movements, a critical survey of all the major authors, and short sketches of the minor ones, together with some indication of their more significant works. He includes detailed studies of major masterpieces, and biographies whenever the life-work of a particular author warrants it. Special attention is paid to literary relations between Hungary and the United States and Britain, and the annotated bibliography includes pioneering work on criticism published in British and American periodicals on Hungarian authors over the last 150 years. There is also a glossary of Hungarian literary and geographical terms.

Literature in Hungary has for long been regarded as a vehicle for national survival and social improvement. The author believes, however, that it is not solely a record of the collective experience of a people whose chief claim is that they have preserved their national identity throughout the vicissitudes of history, but also a distinct voice in the description of the human condition in all its diversity. Accordingly, the author unravels from the national preoccupations and idiosyncracies a Hungarian literature less introspective, less exclusively concerned with national issues, than previously assumed.

The present edition is based on the 2nd, revised edition of the original work (1986). No emendments have been made, except internal crossreferences have been removed, as being unnecessary in a CD-ROM edition, and the date of death of those authors who died since the latest printed edition up to 2002 have been included.

Lóránt Czigány was born in 1935 and educated at the Universities of Szeged, Oxford, and London. He was Lecturer in Hungarian Literature at the University of California, Berkeley from 1969 to 1973. He has published several books and articles in Hungarian and English, and now lives in London.

© Lóránt Czigány 1984 Library of Hungarian Studies