István Eörsi

István Eörsi (1931 -)

He was born in Budapest. Having obtained his University degree in English and Hungarian Language, Literature and Aesthetics in 1953, Eörsi taught Hungarian literature and worked for Szabad Ifjúság [Free Youth], a Communist daily. At the beginning of 1956 he became an advanced graduate student of the noted Marxist philosopher György [Georg] Lukács. The major role he played as a journalist in the National Uprising led to Eörsi being arrested in December 1956 and sentenced to eight years imprisonment.

Released in 1960 by special amnesty he supported himself by undertaking translations and other intellectual work. In 1967 he was at last permitted to join Élet és Irodalom [Life and Literature] as a regular contributor. In 1977 he was appointed resident dramatist at the Gergely Csiky Theatre of Kaposvár. From 1983 to 1986 he lived in West Berlin.

Eörsi is generally regarded as one of the determining figures of Hungarian cultural life since the seventies. His poetry reflects the characteristics of what has become known as 'East European Grotesque', although lacking its characteristic pessimism. It is further characterized by social sensitivity, the search for historical truth, and a bitter-sweet optimism.

Eörsi was awarded the Attila József Prize in 1952, the Frankfurter Autorenstiftung's Prize in 1983, and the Austrian Translator's Award in 1988.


Abraham thinks

The world and I received him from my wife
as an amazing miracle of life.

Her womanhood was long tattered and torn,
for she was ninety when the boy was born.

As if an ice-block happened to ignite,
because it caught a sunbeam's fleeting light.

We got him after such a long delay,
now every day is like a holy day.

And yet, I have to put him to the sword,
because to me he's dearer than the Lord.

I do as He commands, if He prefers
to be the god of executioners.

Isaac thinks

My father tied me to this pile of wood,
he'll use that knife, that's clearly understood.

He lisps at heaven with a toothless grin,
his tears and snot keep dribbling on my skin.

He whets his knife and whiles the time away,
but in the end he'll butcher me today.

The logs are hard, I badly need a pee,
I watch my father, full of sympathy.

His brain can't save me, he can't do a damn,
he has less power than a silly ram.

I'll die, but Dad remains His guinea pig. -
Experimenter, you don't care a fig.


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