Collected by Gabriella NAGY

(Young writers’ recollections of starting out on their careers)
(Assembled by Gabriella Nagy)


„It may have been because we were entering a new decade – which coincided with my official entry into adulthood – but I had the feeling that an entirely different age was coming; that my time was coming: a mysterious, declining, and slightly conservative age. I hated and absolutely did not understand my generation, the members of which, if they had any self-respect at all, were all bums. I can understand them today, or at least I quite like some of the Piramis hits of the time, and I know why people liked them then. (...).”

„I only learned the word „post-modern” as a humanities student at university, but it was there in the spirit of the age from the end of the ’70s. I think I was conscious of  this spirit from the beginning, though I led a lonely life: I knew for example (from IM, the Youth Magazine!) that there was something that was called the „new wave” somewhere out in the world, but the first time I heard the group Európa Kiadó was in 1984. As a law student I was a fan of Hungária. And of course of Endre Ady.” (István Kemény, 1992)

„At the time, during the first part of the ’80s, Szeged was an elementary experience. Feri Szijj’s awesome poems at the university, Józsi Takáts’ and Nándi Bárdi’s flying universities, my undergraduate friends, the samizdats flying from sublet to sublet, the Harmadkor (Third Age), the poetry and prose readings, the theatre nights. Just consider who were starting out on their careers at the time; in the space of those few years we had Hévizi, Csuhai, Takáts, Balog, Pongrácz, Szijj, Jakab Orsós, Szántó, Kurdy Fehér, Háy, Podmaniczky, Mikola, Szilasi and that’s just the names of those members of my generation who are in some way connected with literature, and I haven’t even included the young sociologists, the Tiszatáj of the time, and of course the older generation of poets and writers.” (László Darvasi, 1992)

„As a university student life in general gave me a lot of trouble, well, I can’t say the situation was tragic but I wasn’t finding things easy, and in comparison to this the fact that my first literary efforts were published in the university paper entitled Szeged University was gratifying, but I was concerned with other things at the time. Then I had this no doubt deservedly unsuccessful round  with the literary reviews,  but that worked out alright in the end as well ...Let me mention here the name of Tibor Zalán, who deserves eternal credit for his support of young poets at Kortárs in that period, the middle of the eighties.” (Ferenc Szijj, 2001)

„Until I went to university I did not know and did not question why it was necessary and important for me to write down certain things. In point of fact it was only there, in that company – through the friendship of János Háy and János Kurdy Fehér – that I realized that there may be some connection between the things I write and the printed page.(...) It was while I was at university that we published an anthology entitled Texts. Three of us wrote it (...) I can’t say that this was the point where literature became the most important part of my life. It was simply a part of our friendship.” (Szilárd Podmaniczky, 1992)

„We had several projects going. Of all these perhaps the best was the series of booklets published at our own risk and responsibility under the title Narancsszívszonett (Orangeheartsonnet) which has been coming out since 1985, fairly haphazardly, a hundred copies at a time (...) I did not know any literary mentors, either in Szeged or in Budapest. I never dared to seek assistance from anyone because I would have been ashamed to have them think I was trying to curry favours. And the fact that I write under a pen name saved me from the bluster that seems to be inseparable from the profession. (...) And of course a lot of things influenced me, events and other writers, especially Jenő Menyhárt and the group Európa Kiadó, Misi Víg and the Balaton, Marietta Méhes and the Trabant.” (János Háy, 1993)

„Creating a periodical is a good thing in itself. And we wanted to create a periodical that was not a traditional literary review, but one that dealt with a wider circle of subjects, fine arts, philosophy, translations, and other things, and published primarily young writers.” (Ferenc Szijj, 1993)

„I could only hope that what I was seeking with such determination was not what they were calling literature at the time. And what I thought of as literature was fine and good –  there was János Arany and Mihály Vörösmarty, Sándor Weöres and János Pilinszky, who could and  still can be loved and admired, but these writings were on the one hand too „lofty” for me, and on the other, the „self-time” which should by then have wanted to express itself was not present in any of them. And it couldn’t have been; finding that language should have been my task...(...) I didn’t discover until much later those writers from whom I could learn a lot, and who became really important for me. I read more poetry  than prose; and  with the books that came into my hands I never managed to get beyond a rudimentary level, I always got stuck; I could not really understand why they had to be written the way they were. I thought it pretentious, a sham. I was convinced of this until I came across Géza Ottlik’s novel and one of Miklós Szentkuthy’s books. I also came across two volumes by Miklós Mészöly  (...) and dipping into them, was amazed: how different these books were!” (Bálint Solymosi, 1993)

„...It would have been a pity to pass up the chance of experiencing that awesome feeling because now I’d think I’d lost out on something. Sometimes the news that I was doing these free performances at Szeged spread as far as Budapest. In fact I was wasting a great deal of energy doing these things instead of writing. I had no other purpose with writing except to describe that wild horror of the world. I didn’t particularly care whether those writings ever ended up as a book or not. (Szilárd Podmaniczky, 1999)

„It is since the summer of ’79 that writing has become absolutely necessary for me. We went for a night ride on a motor bike with a friend who was younger than me, skidded sideways on the hard shoulder of the road and flew about 20 metres. He was killed instantly. (Bálint Solymosi, 1993)

„I didn’t know at the time what I’ve since learned through writing prose: that everything in the world is important, every gesture, a fragment of a letter, a face flitting past, a wrong word, anything, and that sometimes the smallest things can conceal the greatest ones, you just have to know to look behind them. To know that sometimes it pays to be artful. In fact it’s the only thing that is worthwhile (...) Sometime around ’85, when I’d won a poetry competition and the old and the young were assembled and the results were announced, I ventured to say, all  earnest and serious, that I did not care about the profession, that it wasn’t important. At which József Tornai jerked up his head and said, that’s a bit much! (...) Anyway, I didn’t know then  that there are no unnecessary stories, only mistaken ones. You have to be careful and pay attention.” (László Darvasi, 1992)

„I am torn between two scales of values, and I can’t decide which relates to the written word and which relates to my life. Perhaps this is why I am sometimes insufferable. Destruction is not the right word here, I would call it up-struction. I haven’t any kind of world image, I feel that everything is changing within me and around me. I am an atheist and a believer. But I do not concern myself with transcendence either: this is an entirely different world, in which I live in a perpetual state of oscillation, so there is no way in which I can hold it all together.” (Szilárd Podmaniczky, 1992)

„...I would not say that I was ever able to work with any kind of professional precision. I wrote and still write with difficulty, slowly, by fits and starts, a painful experience, and the things I write often turn out to be bad and must be thrown away or completely rewritten.(...) I have no sense of certainty that this is what I must do, I do not consider myself a real writer, though I like to write, in fact I find it infinitely preferable to anything else.” (Ferenc Szijj, 1993)

„The assimilation of this generation into literature took place in a peculiar way, and their problems may well be ascribable to this. The generation before them is extremely strong artistically as well as morally; you’ve only to consider their unimpeachable role in the political transformation to acknowledge that they are unassailable.  My generation never could radically circumscribe, define itself in relation to them. So the changes which my generation had to effect after the aforementioned authors – the present writers in their fifties – did not provide that radical bang that Esterházy’s group did at the end of the ’70s. I would not wish to underrate the literary results of my generation, but these results took longer to reveal themselves. Their appearance on the scene was not cathartic; it was rather like the political transformation, peaceful, no blood was spilled, none of the fathers were killed. Perhaps if we had killed a couple of them we would all be feeling better now. For the rest, most of the time, I am not dissatisfied except with myself.” (János Háy, 2001)

Translated by Eszter Molnár


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