Victor Határ

Győző (Victor) Határ (1914 - )

Born in Gyoma, Határ graduated as an architect at the Technical University of Budapest but soon moved into the field of literature. He was among those responsible for establishing the European School of modern literature in Hungary. His tetralogy Heliáne was published in 1947, followed by Liturgikon in 1948.

Previously imprisoned during the Horthy regime, Határ's work was blacklisted by the Communist censorship and he was sent to jail once again, for two and a half years. His poems written during this period of captivity were smuggled out and circulated in typescript. Freed in 1953, he left Hungary late in 1956 and settled in London, where he worked for the B.B.C. for several decades.

Határ is a feverishly experimental avant-garde poet with a superb command of language as well as mythology, history and philosophy - facets that blend to form a brilliant, eclectic basis for a very private world of ideas and images. His publications are extensive. In addition to volumes of poetry including Gossamer Bridge (Hajszálhíd. 1969), he has written a nmumber of novels and plays.. His three volume autobiography Gyôzô Határ's Life Story [Határ Gyôzô Életútja] was published in Budapest after the collapse of Communism. An octogenarian of eternal youth and vigour, Határ is bound to surprise his readers with further masterpieces.

He received the Kossuth Prize in 1991 and was elected a member of the Széchenyi Academy of Arts and Letters in 1993.

ARS MORIENDI (for Peter Zollman)

"the arts and sciences are makeshift dams against death"
St Gregory of Nyssa

as I get up with aches and pains
and leave the well worn bed where I recline
to bring the night's deadbeat remains
in sleepless bundles through the customs line

the sedative has no effect
all guilty of neuralgia come to grief
my nights are permanently wrecked
I've lost the luxury of pain relief

no matter how my bed is lined
with blind shadows or beams of blazing light
in here I can no longer find
that precious privilege: a painless night

oh poetry you deadly curse!
there's no escape from your unholy rhymes
you makeshift sandbag dams of verse!
I've sworn to smash you up - a thousand times

it's death - it is this surging sea
that sandbag verses aren't able to dam
resistance is sheer lunacy
you've vowed to give it up - ad nauseam

you wake from weary Gorgon dreams
from hundred-night-long agonizing spells
and as you sit there crushed it seems
that here is still here and not somewhere else

you press your protest - but who cares?
the tide - the sharp end - leaps at you to strike
the Monster takes you unawares
it looms up larger than the sandbag dike

you bargain - brute you've lost your sense!
wring every last drop of sweat from your hide
heir of your four spent Elements
in dying cadence - wait to end the ride


Gyôzô Határ received the first prize of the 1996 Quasimodo Competition with this poem


two old bodies cuddling pair
live their lovely love affair
arms to shoulders clinging tight
in a sacred nuptial rite

elbow reaches to the thighs
passion fruit from Paradise
from the ankles to the face
in a timeless long embrace

inch by inch from bend to bend
head meets bosom in the end
as the forehead finds a nest
it can take a little rest

seven-sleepers softly snoozing
in their high togetherfusing
seek a secret holy night
fleshly sanctum of delight

stroked stomach and shoulder-blade
hum a tactile serenade
a hymn to the Favourite
who bends a limb to savour it

two old bodies when they can
cuddle ever and again
celebrating each caress
in cocooning cuddliness

in time-hallowed complicity


  © All rights belong to the authors or their heirs. 2004.