1873 born in Kolozsvár (Transylvania; today Cluj, Romania) of aristocratic background
The Legend of the Sun
1900-06 elected and re-elected member of the Hungarian parliament
1906-09 Lord-Lieutenant of Kolozs County and Co-Editor of the conservative journal Erdélyi Lapok
1912 manager and artistic director of the Hungarian Opera House and the National Theatre; importantly involved in staging Bartók's works
1921-22 minister of foreign affairs
1926 returns to Transylvania, editor in chief for the liberal journal Erdélyi Helikon; plays an important role in Hungarian public life in Romania
1939-40 president of the Hungarian Commonwealth, an organisation under the National Renaissance Front
1943 sent to Bucharest with a secret mission to contact anti-Hitlerian forces there
1950 dies in Budapest
Miklós Bánffy worked for the Budapest Opera House and was very much interested in drama (other dramatic works include: Nagyúr, Great Lord, 1913; Az erősebb,The Stronger One, 1918; Maskara, Masque, 1926; Martinovics, 1931). This is a historical drama portraying the crisis of an age.
The dying lion
Banffy came from Transylvania; this is a collection of short stories reflecting his roots, vividly evoking the world of the Transylvanian mountains. Bánffys style is strong and sparse. His stories serve a strong moral purpose without being didactic. He is the writer of a vanished era, of mountain people battling each other and the forces of nature; he evokes an age of balladry. The second half of the stories consists of recollections of romantic settings and people, stories of love and death. The Collected Stories were republished in 2004.
Clear-sighted, cool and ruthless, he is one of our most masculine writers.
- István Örley
The Writing on the Wall
This is a trilogy portraying the life of the aristocracy between 1904-14 under Franz Josephs rule. It consists of: Megszámláltattál... (They Were Counted...), És hijjával találtattál... (And Found Wanting...), Darabokra szaggattatol (They Were Divided).
"[In what is] ostensibly a love story, the two principal characters are cousins, one of whom prospers while the other declines into squalor and a lonely death: but the real theme of this extraordinary family saga is the folly and insularity of the Hungarian upper classes, who danced and quarrelled their way to self-destruction in the ten years leading up to the Great War; and the insularity of the politicians who were so pre-occupied with their struggle against Hapsburg domination that they saw nothing of the storm-clouds gathering over Europe."
-Patrick Thursfield, from the Introduction
"Bánffy is a born story-teller. There are plots, intrigues, a murder, political imbroglios and passionate love affairs....The prejudices and the follies of his characters are arranged in proper perspective and only half-censoriously, for humour and a sense of the absurd come to the rescue. His patriotic feelings are totally free of chauvinism, just as his instinctive promptings of tribal responsibility have not a trace of vanity."
-Patrick Leigh Fermor
"Bánffys loving portrayal of a way of life that was already much diminished by the time he was writing, and set to vanish before he died, is too clear-eyed to be simply nostalgic, yet the ache of loss is certainly here. (...) Although comparisons with Lampedusas novel The Leopard are inevitable, Bánffys work is perhaps nearer in feel to that of Joseph Roth, in The Radetzky March. They were after all, mourning the fall of the same empire."
-Ruth Pavey, New Statesman, March 26, 1999
"The main success of the novel is Bánffys love of life: his obvious interest in character, landscape and historyin the private aspects of personality, in the varied ways of living of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the machinations of the public world of ambition and political manoeuvre. The force of his enthusiasm for these things produces an effect rather like that of the best Trollope novelsbut coming from a past world that now seems excitingly exotic, and from a writer who knew far more about real politics, and perhaps more about sex too."
-Hugh Macpherson, TLS, April 23, 1999
FROM THE BACKLIST OF ARCADIA PUBLISHERS, LONDON: Bánffy, Miklós, Foreword by Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Writing on the Wall (published in three volumes: They were Counted; They Were Found Wanting; They Were Divided).
Winner of the Weidenfeld Translation Prize, Count Miklós Bánffy (1873-1950) was variously a diplomat, MP and foreign minister in 1921/22 when he signed the peace treaty with the United States and obtained Hungarys admission to the League of Nations. He was responsible for organizing the last Habsburg coronation, that of King Karl in 1916. They Were Counted paints an unrivalled portrait of the vanished world of pre-1914 Hungary, as seen through the eyes of two young Transylvanian cousins, Count Balint Abády and Count László Gyeróffly. Shooting parties in great country houses, turbulent scenes in parliament and the luxury of life in Budapest provide the backdrop for this gripping, prescient novel, forming a chilling indictment of upper-class frivolity and political folly, in which good manners cloak indifference and brutality. Ábady becomes aware of the plight of a group of Romanian mountain peasants and their cause, while Gyróffy dissipates his resources at the gaming tables, mirroring the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself.
One of the most celebrated and ambitious classics of Hungarian literature
They Were Found Wanting takes up the tale of the two Transylvanian cousins, their loves and very different fortunes, a year after They Were Counted ends. Balint Abády is forced to part from the beautiful and unhappily married Adrienne Uzdy. Lászlo Gyeroffy is rapidly heading for self-destruction through drink and his own fecklessness. The politicians, quarrelling among themselves and stubbornly ignoring their countrymens real needs, are still pursuing their vendetta with Habsburg rule from Vienna. Meanwhile they fail to notice how the Great Powersthrough such events as Austrias annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908are moving ever closer to the conflagration of 1914-18 that will destroy their world forever.
A genuine case of rediscovered classic. The force of Bánffys enthusiasm produces an effect rather like that of the best Trollope novels but coming from a past world that seems excitingly exotic
-Times Literary Supplement
They Were Divided reflects the rapidly disintegrating course of events in central Europe. In the foreground the lives of Balint, with his ultimately unhappy love for Adrienne, and his fatally flawed cousin, Lászlo Gyreoffy, who dies in poverty and neglect, are told with humour and a bitter-sweet nostalgia for a paradise lost through folly. The sinister and fast moving events in Montenegro, the Balkans wars, apparent encirclement of Germany and Austria-Hungary by Britain, France and Russia and finally the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand all lead inexorably to the youth of Hungary marching gaily off not only to their death on the field of battle, but to the dismemberment of their once great country.
A huge, historical, romantic novel (with) good story-telling, solid historical backgrounds and enjoyable drama.
*Published in France by Editions Phébus *Published in Hungary by Erdélyi Híradó Kiadó
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