János Háy talks to Ivó Weér

– Although there was no round of applause, in general the Book of Young Writers was received positively within the profession. There was only one review containing serious points, too, in which almost all authors received a rebuff slightly jokingly. The criticism was written by a young critic, Ivó Weér.
– I would like to start with a little explanation. The reasons why I became a critic was that I did not simply accept, but took seriously this Anthology, together with its authors. I was angry because it was not better. I thought that extremely talented and active people set at the desks, and they came out with something average. (Apart from the exceptions, of course.) They did not work enough on the text: They are writing to make the audience laugh during a particular reading, and not to create serious works. I was afraid that if the same trend continues, nobody would read contemporary literature. It turned out a pessimist prognosis: it seems that there are still quite a few people who read contemporary literature, and quite a few of the authors of this Anthology have also reached the nirvana of international acknowledgement.
– Did you discover any common poetics, stylistics or way of thinking in the authors of the Book of Young Writers, on the basis of which these authors could be defined as a generation?
– The most obvious common feature is the mandatory ironic attitude, which has not been brought by this generation, but by Eszterházy (directly before them), or Csokonai (al ong time back in time). The Sex-and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll feeling is also a common feature: Garaczi is a predecessor in that. What was a really new thing is that they do not get involved in politics, which is quite a strange common feature in the year of the systemic change. Yet this is the case. These writers lived and thought already at that time (and years before) as if the systemic change had taken place a long while before. Sometimes they went into irony about where they lived, and the poems contained some lines that “,Although it is a developed socialist state’’ or ,”Do not be afraid the human-faced laws will accept you’’ yet the whole writing was a great free game. A play on words, philosophy and history. In addition, there was an audience too. It sounds quite well retrospectively, doesn’t it?
– You are making a general comment that in a generation someone should be a clever writer who knows what he is writing and why instead of being a sensitive one.
– It is only about irony. People had to be sensitive, and, on the other hand, everybody was a buyer for all shades, too. But nobody was expected to take himself too seriously either, and it was not a habit of seriously criticising poetics, considered obsolete (specifically authors) or the great themes to be written. Obviously, it was not a habit because nobody was older than 25 years, and people thought that they still had a long time to be serious. On the other hand, those who took themselves seriously wrote essays then and they still do the same (e.g. Csaba Károlyi or István Szántó F. from the Book of Young Writers), and other people wrote very serious poems (e.g. Szilárd Borbély, Ferenc Szijj and Imre Kurdi).
– To what extent did you feel in 1989 that the 19 writers of the Book characterised this generation? Did you have a feeling that something was missing?
– Not at that time. I did not have such a feeling because there were a lot more writers in the Book than those whom I had known before. But, looking back, e.g. it is strange that editors made their selection only within the borders. At that time it was not obvious that András Ferenc Kovács or Zsolt Láng wrote the same Hungarian literature as Szilárd Podmaniczky or You, and it does not matter whether they send their e-mail from Marosvásárhely. In addition, it is also strange how strict the editors were with the age limit: between 1958-64. It was already clear that Garaczi, Gábor Németh or, looking at younger writers István Vörös, Balázs Simon, Árpád Kun and Krisztina Tóth were part of this generation. However, there was one striking deficiency: Attila Kristóf Nagy was left out for personal reasons most probably.
– Looking at the changes of the last 15 years how much has the composition of the age group changed were there any from whom who you expected a lot more, and were there some who caused a surprise?
– As 15 years have passed, the generation has extended. Looking at it from now, e.g. János Térey, Gergely Péterfy or Zsolt Farkas and Eszter Babarczy essayists (and many others), also belong to the same generation although they did not publish anything at that time. On the other hand, some of the authors of the Book of Young Writers have disappeared: they went to the TV (e.g. József Balog) or became PR managers (e.g. János Kurdy Fehér), others have gone mad (I would not like to give an example, if you do not mind), there are others who began to teach, translate or edit, and it takes more time for them, making it impossible to create serious works (at least so far) (e.g. Imre Kurdi, István Szántó F. or Júlia Lázár). Those who were best then are still the best (they are also included in this collection, including the interviewer, and the writer of the serious essay). They have become real professionals, about whom it would be irresponsible to make a statement in one sentence only. But e.g. I thought that Szilárd Podmaniczy would not be able to create what was in him, because he would destroy himself first and thank God it did not happen. I never thought that László Darvasi would stop writing poems completely (perhaps because I appreciate poems more than prose).
– In your view did this generation receive enough opportunities to become an active and determining component of contemporary literature?
– Yes. Earlier they were given an incredible amount of publication opportunities. There have never been so many readings, journals, radio programmes and TV appearances as since 1989. Those who were able to write poem or prose filling a full volume, or write complete novels were almost definitely able to publish them. Often the publication took place much earlier than it should have been (this applies to the best, too).
– Has anything new developed in recent years at all which can be related to this some group including new poetics, ways of thinking, or can we only talk about individual performance only?
– I think that literature is not a team game. The greatest achievement of this Anthology was that the generation got to know itself, has created an understanding audience for itself, and based on this security everybody could calmly write his own life-work.

Translated by Eszter Molnár


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