Author's page

Robert BALOGH
( 1972 )

Biography

1972 born in Pécs; of German ("Swabian") descent, living in the ancestral, ethnic village of Véménd
1992-1997 graduates in Hungarian Literature and Linguistics from Janus Pannonius University, Pécs
1993 begin to be publish work in several literary periodicals
1995 wins the Lyra competition at University of Miskolc

"I write literary, theatre and art criticism. I have worked as an assistant director, assistant stage-manager, assistant actor, have been unemployed, have been a student, a journalist, a critic, written reports for the television and the radio."

Prizes
2000 Péter Hajnóczy Prose Writers Scholarship for the Millenium
2002 Zsigmond Móricz Literary Grant
2002 Irka Association Scholarship (for writing a film script)
2002 János Sziveri Prize
2003 The National Cultural Foundation s Fund for Writing
2004 István Örkény Playwrights Scholarship
2004 Lilla Prize
2005 Prize of Excellence awarded by the magazine Életünk
2006 Third Prize at the Literary Presence International Competition for Novelists

Grandma’s Medicinal Book
2001

Relating the history of Balagh’s own family, the novel experiments with the genres of sociography, folklore, autobiography, family history, village monograph and historical essay, even providing the occasional marginal annotation with specific data on historical events. In addition to a sequence of fragmentary lyrical texts (monologues, dreams, visions, archaic folk prayers and legends), the book contains extracts from various documents (hand-written notes, diary entries, even family snapshots and I.D. mug shots) and includes transcripts of taped interviews which the author conducted. Balogh’s ancestors, coming from southern Germany, arrived in Véménd by raft along the Danube at some point in the early eighteenth century, part of the wave of new settlement encouraged by the Habsburgs to repopulate the large areas of southern Hungary recently liberated from the Ottoman Turks. Two and a half centuries later, in 1947, much of the family was herded onto trains to be repatriated to Germany by the post-war Hungarian authorities, under the cloud of having collaborated with the German Nazis. Many, however—the author’s grandmother included—made their way back to the village on foot. The book’s chief strength lies in its clever assembly of elements, the carefully considered order in which the medley of texts are placed, exhilaratingly playing off one another to achieve an overarching unity. (Geert Mak’s Amsterdam provides a parallel from contemporary Dutch literature). It speaks in a wide range of voices, from the passionate to the dryly factual, while the narrator takes an ironic stance towards the language, traditions and customs of his grandparents.

A Book of Dreams
2004

The second instalment of what is anticipated to be a trilogy, Swabian Legendry relates the story of the ethnic Germans in Hungary, again through family history—three centuries full of calamity, humiliation and mysterious identities. Besides short stories glimpsing at people’s fortune or fate, the author indulges in sensual descriptions of food and eating customs. There are no clear-cut boundaries between genres; the novel comprises a “Book of Dreams” as well as a “Book of Charms”, each a collection of sociography and folklore. The motifs within are familiar from the short stories, thus the two “books” re-interpret what has been read before. (Balogh’s two novels are full of such cross-references.) The often humorous illustrations, selected with great care and taste, give the book a sense of sociographical and psychological fulfilment.

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