Hungary 20th Century Literature

In the twentieth century two events endangered the unity of Hungarian literature: the dismemberment of the country after the First World War with the consequent reduction of Hungarians to national minorities in the successor states, and the displacement of Hungary into the sphere of Soviet influence after the Second World War. Writers responded to the division of the territory with an extraordinary literary flourishing in Transylvania (Á. Tamási, 1897-1966; J. Nyirö, 1889-1953; J. Dsida, 1907-38; L. Áprily, 1887-1967, and many others) and, albeit to a lesser extent, in Slovakia (L. Mécs, 1895-1978) whose products, instead of falling into isolation, were also completely received by the publishing industry of the motherland. Faced with the second event, emigrant writers do not entrench themselves in sterile isolationisms but follow the evolution in Hungary with vigilant interest (László Cs. Szabó, Z. Szabó, S. Márai etc.), while the writers in the motherland try, on the one hand, to put back into circulation the literary products of the past with a prodigious publishing activity and, on the other, to maintain links with Western civilization.

According to aparentingblog, the Hungarian literary production of the 1950s is strongly influenced, almost spoiled, by the political situation. Three levels are identified: literature “sponsored” by power (B. Illés, 1895-1974); that “tolerated”, often barely, as the case of T. Déry demonstrates(1894-1977), subjected in 1952 to a mock trial for the lack of “political coherence” of his novels; the “forbidden” one: most of the authors, intellectuals and non-homologable literary magazines were eliminated from the cultural panorama. Only the magazines Csillag (1947) and Irodalmi Ùjság (1950-56) remained, the latter having a fundamental role in siding with the rioters in October 1956. The revolution that took place that year had a dramatic conclusion also for the cultural and literary world. Many intellectuals, including for example the aforementioned Déry, were arrested and sentenced to long years of imprisonment, or forced to emigrate. With the “consolidation” phase started by J. Kádár, already in the early sixties some authors resumed writing. The poetry, hermetic and “de-objectified”, is traversed by mystical-religious overtones (J. Pilinszky, 1921-81; À. N. Nagy, 1922-91). Illyés, L. Nagy (1925-78), F. Juhász (b. 1928) represent the populist voice in its various expressions. The prose is characterized by a profound linguistic and stylistic renewal, even if throughout the first half of the Sixties there are still authors known on the scene since the first postwar period.

The psychological realism of L. Németh (1901-75) analyzes the Hungarian middle class; in the novels of G. Moldova (b. 1934) the theme of revolution appears (Mulino nell’inferno, 1968); I. Kertész (b. 1929), winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002, interned at Auschwitz at the age of 14, relives that atrocious experience in his work; G. Konrád (b. 1933) sets The Visitor (1969) in a “left” city. Between tradition and innovation are placed, among others, G. Ottlik (1912-90), I. Mándy (b. 1918), À. Göncz (b. 1922) and F. Sánta (b. 1927), who forcefully use allegory and symbolism to describe the political situation and express the human condition in their time. True innovators are M. Mészöly (b. 1921) and I. Orkény (1922-79). The first has been considered an example for generations (The death of the athlete, 1966; Saul, 1968; Precise stories along the way, 1970; Film, 1976; Forgiveness, 1988); the second was the typical representative in literature of the little man condemned to optimism even in tragedy (Cat Games, 1966; I Tóth, 1967; Novelle da un minute, 1968). In the seventies prose writers such as D. Tandori (b. 1938), P. Lengyel (b. 1939), P. Hajnóczi (1942-81), P. Nádas (b. 1942) established themselves; and the younger P. Esterházy (b. 1950), and L. Marton (b. 1959) and L. Krasznahorkai (b. 1954).

The latter was published in Italy, in 2000, The harmonies of Werckmeister, work from which the homonymous feature film by director Béla Tarr is based. In the female field, moderate success is achieved by A. Jókai (b. 1932), author of Povera Anna Sudár(2000) and Giorni (2001). As for poetry, after Illyés’s death, S. Csoóri (b. 1930) assumed the role of national poet. The new Hungarian poetry is above all “citizen”, and has at its center the resigned sensibility of the metropolitan man. For the greatest contemporary Hungarian poet, G. Petri (n. 1943), the truth of poetry cannot be differentiated from the truth of the heart and reason. I. Baka (b. 1948) represents the other Hungary, that of the province, with its traditions and myths. In the Hungarian literature of Transylvania (Romania) the renewal took place through three generations of writers, starting from the 1960s, with the foundation of the literary series Forrás (Source). Throughout the 1980s, the senseless and chauvinistic cultural policy of the Romanian government aimed, among other things, at the complete destruction of minority literature. In the 1990s, G. Tompa (b.1957), Z. Láng (b.1958), FA Kovács (b.1959), T. Jakabbfy (b.1961), R. Kisgyörgy (b.1962) emerged significantly.). Hungarian-language literatures are equally alive in Slovakia (L. Grendel, b. 1948) and in the former Yugoslavia, where a group of writers gathered around the magazine Ùj Symposion whose “avant-garde coherence” represented a new horizon and a concrete promise for all Hungarian literature.

Hungary 20th Century Literature

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