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Biography

1887 born in Brassó (Transylvania; today Braºov, Romania)
1890 student in Székelyudvarhely (Transylvania; today Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania)
1899 student of the Protestant College of Kolozsvár
1909 Teacher's Diploma for Hungarian and German Literature; becomes a teacher in Nagyenyed
1913 first son born, Zoltán Jékely, who later becomes a poet
1918 under the pen-name Áprily, publishes first poem in the journal, Új Erdély (New Transylvania)
1923 Teacher's Diploma in French Language and Literature in Dijon
1926 moves to Kolozsvár with his family, becoming a teacher at the famous Protestant College
1928 editor of the literary periodical, Erdélyi Helikon
1929 moves to Budapest
1934 director of the Baár-Madas Institute for Girls; among his outstanding students is the poet Ágnes Nemes Nagy
1935 voyages in Europe
1942 for a short period moves back to his native Transylvania
1943 builds a home in Szentgyörgypuszta (north of Budapest, near Visegrád)
1967 dies in Budapest

Country Elegy
1921

Áprily was still a teacher writing poems in utmost secrecy, showing them only to his wife, when he decided to send them under a pen-name to the journal Új Erdély (New Transylvania). (Áprily’s family name was Jékely.) For two years he stayed silent while poets and readers praised his work for its perfect form and metre, and quiet elegiac tone. Sándor Reményik, at the time the leading poet of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, even wrote him a congratulatory poem. In his answer, Áprily claimed not to be a cavalier or a freedom fighter, just a poet of a melancholic nature very much aware of his limits. A poet of this kind is very much affected by every pang of pain coming from outside, and a great part of his first volume commemorates the friends and colleagues who lost their lives in the First World War. This is not a typical first volume of poetry, as the voice of the 34-year-old poet is mature and even classical. Critics often compared him to his goldsmith ancestors, for his lines are polished to perfection. What stands out even more than Áprily’s form is his content. No other Hungarian poet writes as he does about nature: But toward summer’s end when from the glaciers the autumn poured down winds and bluish fogs from unseen heights of moist, slippery dangers stags’ mating calls were bellowing from the bogs. And then: his mouth started to wheeze and tremble his cows’ corral became foreign to him stepmother-cow, calves he’d no more resemble and boomed in the fog like organs boom a hymn. “The Stag of Irisora”, translated by Adam Makkai

Ábel’s Smoke
1957

After The Invisible Writing (1939) Áprily was not allowed to publish. In the years of fascism he was dismissed from the directorial chair of the Baár-Madas school for refusing to dismiss students of Jewish origin; in the years of Communism he was labelled an outmoded bourgeois writer. On his 70th birthday, though, an anniversary volume was published. In Áprily’s words: “I know that to be seventy years old does not mean that one has reached a peak—instead it is a mountain leading towards dark valleys. However, now I feel that I stand on a summit where I can see the regions of my life and embrace the many-peaked land where I was born and that raised me to be a man, and embrace the nation which I belong to.” This volume features a great number of four-line poems; Áprily is perhaps the most prolific writer of this form in Hungarian literature. There are almost four hundred quatrains in his oeuvre, making for approximately a quarter of his output (in the volume Ábel’s Smoke there are 109 quatrains).

Report from the Valley
1965

The title of the volume can be interpreted in two ways: on one hand it is the actual home of the poet, the valley near Visegrád called Szentgyörgypuszta (Saint George Plain) where this reclusive soul found his last refuge; on the other hand it is the poet’s place in time: his home in the valley of old age. This volume is divided into four parts and principal motifs include birds and clouds representing the happiness of the fleeting moments, and monsters and death—the motto of the volume could be taken from the cycle entitled Great Silence in Autumn: ‘Memento mori’. “This soul was ready before it became a poet. It was a man, who said: I, Lajos Áprily, have completed my life, and what remained is elegy...And not an intrusive one—an elegy hiding in the soul of the forest and the mountain, in ill-fated people, and only in special moments do we find out that it is him speaking, Lajos Áprily, who doesn’t intrude in his own world. It is an October excursion to walk through his poems, but they are not dark...but red: red berries and leaves, reminding us of forests that have become the prey of autumn.” -László Németh

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